Fight between Allosaurus and Utahraptor called off in Legislature

Revised legislation would retain Allosaurus as state fossil, make Utahraptor the new state dinosaur<br>

(Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo) Utahraptor in the Dinosaur Garden at the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum.

A fight millions of years in the making between Allosaurus and Utahraptor has been avoided.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says he’s been persuaded to rewrite SB43 and stop pushing to have Utahraptor replace Allosaurus as the state fossil. Instead, the bill now would add Utahraptor as the new official state dinosaur.

“Both will have their moments of fame,” he said. Bramble originally had been convinced by a 10-year-old dinosaur fanatic, Kenyon Roberts, that Utahraptor was more worthy of the state designation, so he introduced the bill.

But after initial publicity, Bramble said, “I was contacted by a few paleontologists. They gave me the history of both the Allosaurus and Utahraptor and suggested we keep the Allosaurus as the state fossil and establish a state dinosaur. They made a compelling case for both.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) 10-year-old dinosaur fanatic Kenyon Roberts holds a model of an Allosaurus claw in his dinosaur-themed room, Thursday December 14, 2017 in Draper. Roberts persuaded Sen. Curt Bramble to draft legislation to change Utah state fossil from Allosaurus to Utahraptor.

Among those who have made that argument is Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland — discoverer of Utahraptor. “The main reason I am the state paleontologist is that I discovered Utahraptor. Utahraptor has been very, very good to me…. I am the world authority on Utahraptor,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier.

He said that discovery was made about 1990 near Arches National Park. He, Robert Gaston and Donald Burge described the dinosaur and named it in 1993 — not long after the original “Jurassic Park” film was released that year. That turned into a godsend for the movie.

Filmmakers had doubled the size of Velociraptors, leading to complaints from dinosaur lovers. “About the same time, we announced our animal,” which was twice as large as any known raptor, Kirkland said.

“And the press said, ‘Steven Spielberg’s giant raptors are vindicated.’ So it made the No. 7 science story of the year in Time magazine, and the cover of Discovery magazine,” he said. “It was pretty exciting stuff.”

However, Kirkland argues there are plenty of reasons also to honor Allosaurus.

“The first state paleontologist, Jim Madsen, was the world’s authority on Allosaurus,” Kirkland said, and “it was largely through his work that Allosaurus became the state fossil” in 1988 — a few years before Utahraptor was discovered.

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) The reconstructed skeleton of the Allosaurus dinosaur on display at the Vernal Dinosaur museum in Vernal, Utah.

He adds that the Cleveland-Lloyd quarry in Utah provided more than 50 Allosaurus specimens, from 3-foot-long juveniles to 35-foot-long adults. The high number of specimens there made Allosaurus the best understood large carnivorous dinosaur.

While 43 states have a state dinosaur and/or fossil, Utah is the only one to honor Allosaurus, and none has selected Utahraptor.

Utah has 27 official state symbols.

Among them are the state bird (sea gull), flower (sego lily), cooking pot (Dutch oven), insect (honeybee), rock (coal), tree (quaking aspen), winter sports (skiing and snowboarding), firearm (Browning M1911 pistol), vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and historic vegetable (sugar beet).