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State fossil bill passes out of committee

2/20/2014

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

TOPEKA -- With just a single dissenting vote, a bill that would name both the pteranodon and the Tylosaurus mosasaur as state fossils emerged Wednesday morning from a House committee.

The lone negative vote came from Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe, but even he didn't want his vote recorded.

"They passed it out of committee," said Mike Everhart, one of four witnesses testifying Wednesday morning before the Vision 2020 House Committee.

Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, pulled together the three paragraph bill and shepherded it through the committee.

The bill names not one, but two state fossils. The Tylosaurus, a giant mosasaur that inhabited the inland sea nearly 80 million years ago, would be the official marine fossil.

The pteranodon, a pterosaur with a wingspan of more than 24 feet, would be the state's official flying fossil.

Also testifying at Wednesday's hearing was Alan Detrich, who long had urged Kansas to list the Xiphactinus as the state's fossil. Earlier this year, he offered to give up on the Xiphactinus in favor of the mosasaur.

Everhart talked briefly about the Xiphactinus, but also said it first was found in England, not in Kansas.

"Hopefully that put the nail in the coffin," he said of the idea of listing the fish as a state fossil.

In his testimony, Everhart, adjunct curator of vertebrate paleontology at Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, detailed the history of both fossils.

The Tylosaurus, he said, is an extinct giant marine lizard.

The first known specimen of Tylosaurus was collected in 1868 near Monument Rocks.

"The first Tylosaurus found was spirited away to Harvard," Everhart said. "It's a big, impressive sea monster."

The pteranodon is a flying reptile, and the wing bones of the first known specimen were collected in Logan County in 1870. It's now in the Yale Peabody Museum.

Everhart said it's unclear when the measure might go before the full House, although he said Hineman planned to talk to the House speaker to get it scheduled.

"I didn't detect anything negative on it," he said.