Arkansas State dinosaur

The Story of an FHS senior and a 110 million-year-old dinosaur


commissioned by ReBecca Hunt-Foster, a UA grad, and made by Brian Engh, a paleo-artist

Cypress Oury, Reporter

d‘Arkansaurus fridayi’ first came into my life when I was about six or seven years old. My dad Jason Oury, a local architect, bought two paleontology books and a rock hammer for me for Christmas. One of those books was titled Fossils of Arkansas, which contained a small pamphlet on a dinosaur found in the state in August 1972…its name: ‘Arkansaurus fridayi’.

I quickly became excited about a dinosaur having lived in my home state and obsessed over it. Through reading the booklet and other articles and papers on the dinosaur, I discovered the history of ‘Arkansaurus’: the discovery was in August 1972, in the small town of Lockesburg in Sevier County. Supposedly looking for a lost cow, local farmer Joe B. Friday discovered the fossilized foot of a dinosaur in a gravel pit, the remains for a quarry used to build a local highway.

The bones were sent to the University of Arkansas where they were studied by the late James Harrison Quinn (who died in a fossil hunting accident in Nebraska in 1977). He studied and reconstructed the foot, and gave the dinosaur the nomen nudum (unofficial name) ‘Arkansaurus fridayi’ in 1973.

‘Arkansaurus fridayi’ is among the coelurosaurian group of dinosaurs, the group of theropods (bipedal, meat-eating dinosaurs) that eventually gave rise to the birds.’Arkansaurus’  is thought belong to the coelurosaurian group ornithomimids, ostrich-like dinosaurs If that is true, ‘Arkansaurus’ would be the oldest, most primitive member.

A paleontologist who graduated from the University of Arkansas, Rebecca Hunt-Foster, had written her senior thesis on the dinosaur in 2003, and is in the process of writing a paper to officialize the name of the only known dinosaur bones found in the state. In an interview with the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Hunt mentioned how the dinosaur is “different than anything else that’s been found so far.” This suggests that ‘Arkansaurus fridayi’ is a unique species, as it is exclusive to Arkansas.

I had been interested in paleontology since I had my own discovery of the Arkansas Dinosaur. And between 2010 and 2013, I had started looking for schools with paleontology programs (or something similar, mainly geology). At some point in my search, I found a website called ‘The Paleontology Portal’. On this website, you can view different flora and fauna, paleontology schools, educational resources, and so on can be viewed. On each state’s page, there was a box that showed the state’s state dinosaur or fossil.

At about the same time, I had found out that some states had state dinosaurs. Arkansas had neither a state dinosaur or state fossil. So, I thought it would be cool for Arkansas to have an official State Dinosaur. I believed then, and still do now, that ‘Arkansaurus fridayi’ was the most perfect candidate for being the official State Dinosaur of the State of Arkansas.

The campaign began March 14, 2013 originally as a petition to be signed by at least one thousand people after discovering more about State Dinosaurs. The petition was to then be sent to the Arkansas State General Assembly to get them to declare ‘Arkansaurus fridayi’ as the official state dinosaur.

After a few months with no progress made, I renewed the campaign in 2014 through a couple of online petitions and even posted a campaign video on YouTube in Jan. 2014. I created an online petition on Care2 with a goal of 750 signatures. Before I decided to close it later that same year, I had gotten 18 signatures from Arkansas, Ohio, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Lebanon, Germany, Singapore, Florida, Kentucky, Chile, Slovenia, Ireland, California, and Texas. I was really excited to see that so many people from all over the world were interested in the campaign.

Along with another petition created, I opened an official Facebook page for the campaign on May 10, 2014, which still remains in operation to this day. Then, I created a website in 2015 (whose name will change from ‘Arkansas State Dinosaur Campaign’ to simply ‘Arkansas State Dinosaur’ once the initiative is finished). On the website, I occasionally post updates on either the political aspect or paleontological aspect of the campaign.

In June of 2015, the Arkansas State Dinosaur campaign was shared statewide through an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article that was published July 22, 2015.

In early 2016 I drafted a House Concurrent Resolution for the official state dinosaur to become a reality. In Jan. 2016 I sent out emails to Arkansas General Assembly state representatives. Through doing so, I would start the biggest stage of this campaign: getting official recognition by the 91st Arkansas General Assembly.

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