It took almost 140 years after its discovery for the State Dinosaur of Maryland to be adopted in 1998. Which is coincidental as another naming issue prevented this dinosaur being the second ever named dinosaur in the U.S.A!. it has also been the state dinosaur of two states! We take a look at both the naming of the dinosaur and how it became Maryland’s state dinosaur below.
Astrodon johnstoni was named as the state dinosaur of Maryland in 1998. it was discovered in 1958 by Philip Tyson. The discovery was two teeth which Tyson gave to a Dentist who cut into the tooth and discovered a star pattern. The name Astrodon means ‘Star tooth’.
As we mentioned above there was an issue around the naming of Astrodon, and we will take a look at that below.
The Naming of Astrodon.
When Philip Tyson received two fossilized teeth, from an iron pit in Prince Georges county he sent them to dentist Christopher Johnston, upon seeing the star shaped pattern in the fossilized teeth Christopher Johnston named them Astrodon – meaning star tooth, but didn’t attach a specific epithet or scientific name. This is not accepted in the nomenclature rules of naming animals.
This omission was later rectified in 1865 with Joseph Leidy giving the Astrodon its fully name, Astrodon Johnstoni giving credit to the dentist Christopher Johnston. Unfortunately, although he got the credit for this, had Johnston named the dinosaur in 1959 it would have been the second ever named dinosaur in the USA.
Astrodon: The State Dinosaur of Maryland
The state dinosaur of Maryland is the Astrodon johnstoni. It was designated as the state dinosaur of Maryland in 1998.
The Astrodon johnstoni was a large herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the early Cretaceous period, around 145-100 million years ago. Fossils of the Astrodon johnstoni have been found in Maryland, and it has become an important symbol of the state’s natural history.
Here are 10 facts about the Astrodon johnstoni, the state dinosaur of Maryland:
- The Astrodon johnstoni was a herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the early Cretaceous period, around 145-100 million years ago.
- It was a large dinosaur, measuring up to 66 feet long and weighing up to 20 tons. (44,000 lbs)
- The Astrodon johnstoni had a long neck and a small head, with star patterned teeth that were adapted for grinding vegetation.
- It lived in a humid, tropical environment and was likely a slow-moving, browsing herbivore.
- Fossils of the Astrodon johnstoni have been found in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
- The Astrodon johnstoni was named after Christopher Johnston, the Maryland dentist geologist who named the first specimen in 1858.
- The Astrodon johnstoni is an important symbol of Maryland’s natural history, and was designated as the state dinosaur of Maryland in 1998.
- The Astrodon johnstoni is closely related to other sauropod dinosaurs, such as the Diplodocus and the Brachiosaurus.
- Scientists continue to study the Astrodon johnstoni and other sauropod dinosaurs to learn more about their anatomy, behavior, and evolution.
- The Name Astrodon has just three syllables and is pronounced like this Ast – Row – Don
|Dinosaur Name||State Dinosaur of||Length||Height||Weight||When Lived||When and where Discovered|
|Astrodon||Maryland,1998||66 feet (20 metres)||30 feet (9 metres)||up to 46000 lbs 20,000 kg)||112 Million Years ago.||Maryland. 1958|
Why is Astrodon the State Dinosaur of Maryland?
The Astrodon johnstoni became the state dinosaur of Maryland in 1998. In that year, the Maryland General Assembly passed a resolution designating the Astrodon johnstoni as the official state dinosaur of Maryland.
The Astrodon johnstoni was chosen as the state dinosaur because it is a unique and important symbol of Maryland’s natural history. The first specimen of the Astrodon johnstoni was discovered in Maryland in 1858, and subsequent discoveries have been made in the same region.
The Astrodon johnstoni lived during the early Cretaceous period, around 145-100 million years ago, and its fossils are preserved in sedimentary rock formations that were laid down during that time period.
Astrodon was also the state dinosaur of Texas for a while, from 1997 to 2009 where the fossils were recategorized as sauroposeidon. As far as we know it is the only dinosaur to represent two states, although Dilophosaurus has come close!
Where was Astrodon discovered?
Fossils of the Astrodon johnstoni, the state dinosaur of Maryland, have been found in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The first specimen was formally discovered in Maryland in 1858, however the actual fossils was found by John Latchford in an iron ore pit.
As we mentioned above, these were sent to be examined and studied by dentist Christopher Johnston, probably the oldest set of teeth he had ever worked on, and upon discovering the star pattern of the teeth named the fossil the Astrodon.
Further fossils were discovered in Maryland by Othniel Marsh in 1888 and although named Pleurocoelus they were later reclassified as Astrodon, Fossils attributed to Astrodon have also been found in Oklahoma and Texas.
Fossils also discovered in this area include the state dinosaur of Oklahoma the Acrocanthosaurus as well as possibly the Capitalsaurus (district of columbia state dinosaur)
What is the State Fossil of Maryland?
The state fossil of Maryland is the Ecphora gardnerae, a type of snail that lived during the Miocene epoch, about 23 to 5 million years ago. It was designated as the state fossil in 1998 by the Maryland General Assembly. Its name means ‘bearing out”
The Ecphora gardnerae is known for its distinctive shells, which have a triangular shape and are decorated with spiral ribs and spines. It is found in fossil deposits in Maryland, as well as in other states along the East Coast of the United States.
you can check out the other state dinosaurs, those that have adopted one as a state symbol, here in the following list.
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
You can also read more about State dinosaurs in our US State dinosaur page as well linked here and below.
Maryland’s state dinosaur is a star in more than one way, it’s a huge sauropod and it had star patterned teeth. Astrodon may have taken nearly 140 years from its discovering to become the state dinosaur of Maryland but it is a worthy addition to the states symbols.
It is also the only dinosaur to feature (at some time) as the dinosaur for two different states both Maryland and Texas.
Hi, I am a General Studies and English Teacher who has taught all over the world. What started as a fossil collection became a great way to teach, motivate and inspire students of all ages and all over the world about dinosaurs