WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Right now is an interesting time to be a dinosaur lover in Delaware.
For one thing, the new dinosaur blockbuster “Jurassic World: Dominion” is still gobbling up interest in theaters, which is good for folks who haven’t had a chance to see it yet.
The second reason is that Delaware is on pace to adopt a state dinosaur much like Maryland (Astrodon johnstoni) and New Jersey (Hadrosaurus foulkii).
Students at Shue-Medill Middle School drafted House Bill 390 for the Small Wonder to recognize the Dryptosauridae (“Drip-tuh-sore-uh-dee”) as its state dinosaur.
Rep. Paul Baumbach was the primary sponsor of the bill.
“Dryptosauridae bones have been found in the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal,” according to the written synopsis for HB 390.
Lincoln native Jessica Rivera-Rudak, who now lives in Houston, Texas, is hopeful the Dryptosaurus will represent the First State because it will provide “the state with another way to express its pride and character,” she told Delaware Online/The News Journal on Facebook.
Rivera-Rudak’s favorite dino is a plant eater.
“I like that the Stegosaurus was a herbivore (so it did not kill other creatures for food). But it was also capable of defending itself against the carnivores. Triceratops is another one I love for the same reason,” she said.
Rivera-Rudak nearly lost her mind recently when she saw a replica of the 1993 “Jurassic Park” Jeep parked outside of a movie theater in Houston. She took a photo with the ride, which she uploaded to Facebook.
“The ‘Jurassic’ Jeep is so iconic. The scene from the original movie with the kids in the Jeep and the T-Rex chasing them down is one of the scariest and well-done scenes from a movie,” she said. “That scene scared me so much as a kid, so taking the picture was like conquering my fear.”
Similar to Rivera-Rudak, Frederica resident Kyle Zeitler also is in favor of Delaware adopting the Dryptosaur.
“It would be nice to have a dinosaur because it would be different,” Zeitler said.
Zeitler, a content creator on YouTube under the name “ArronSwarm,” said he hasn’t seen the new “Jurassic” film yet, but he loves the franchise and remembers getting an adrenaline rush when he watched the early movies as a kid.
His all-time favorite dino was a fierce predator with short arms. “My favorite is a T-Rex because I enjoy how aggressive that creature was back in its time.”
Wyoming resident Rebekah Ottinger favors a plant-eating creature.
“I love dinosaurs and anything that lets us see a glimpse of the past. I may be 35, but I absolutely have a favorite dinosaur. It’s the Euoplocephalus,” she said.
The Euoplocephalus has spikes around its body. Ottinger doesn’t think that prehistoric beast was a bully, despite its tough appearance.
“They look all aggressive but then I just picture them chomping away at some plants with these ridiculous spikes on them,” Ottinger said, adding she has a deeper connection with the creature because it’s probably a Teddy bear with a “hard exterior, soft interior.”
The word “swag” once was a popular expression to describe someone who was cool. These days the kids have replaced that word with “drip,” which means a person is saturated in coolness.
If you see someone wearing expensive jewelry, for example, you’d say that person has a lot of “drip” or they’re “dripping.”
Why is this relevant to a dinosaur story? Because the Dryptosaur basically has a variation of “drip” built into its name. And the students at Shue-Medill are running with this.
The students designed a T-shirt with a traditional illustration of the Dryptosaur on the front, while the back of the shirt features a whimsical version of the creature wearing a bowler hat, sneakers and a gold chain with a gaudy letter “D” medallion.
Also in ALL CAPS are the words: “DELAWARE’S DINO GOT MAD DRYP.”
“They had a lot of fun. It was them kind of putting their mark on it,” said Michele Savage, principal of Shue-Medill, who added that she has a pair of shiny Adidas that give her enough drip to make a leaky faucet jealous.
A small group of Shue-Medill students wore their “MAD DRYP“ shirts at Legislative Hall in May, while each of them testified about why the Dryptosaur should become the official state dino.
Baumbach said all state symbols, including a dinosaur, are important.
“I think they’re a matter of pride,” he said. “We all want to feel good about where we live, our decisions, our homes and our communities.”
So, how’d this dino journey start?
The idea that Delaware should have a state dino was inspired by Baumbach in November after he and his wife visited friends in Florida who are originally from Maryland.
“Over dinner they pointed out that Maryland had a state dinosaur. And I’m like, ’I know we’ve got some state sports, and state pets and state this and state that. But I don’t think we have a state dinosaur.”
Eventually, that grew into Baumbach reaching out to Shue-Medill via email in February, he said, because he had a good relationship with the school over the years.
“Paul reached out and basically said, ‘Hey, Delaware doesn’t have a state dinosaur. Do you want to task some students with doing some research? Maryland has one. We need one. I thought you guys would be perfect,‘” the principal explained.
The Delaware Museum of Nature & Science, which has a model of the Dryptosaur on display in its PaleoZone, assisted the students with their research by helping them fact-check the list of dinosaurs they wanted to represent Delaware, which students ultimately decided on through voting.
The students worked with Delaware Museum’s Alex Kittle, collections manager for mollusks and invertebrate paleontologist, along with Liz Shea, Ph.D., director of collections and curator of mollusks.
Kittle said one of the dinosaurs the students nominated was the Hadrosaur, because its bones were found in Delaware much like the Dryptosaur. But Kittle steered them away from that dino because it also already represents New Jersey.
The Dryptosaur is a predator that was about 25 feet long (nose to tip of tail) and probably would have stood 6 to 8 feet tall. It weighed about 1.7 tons, Kittle said.
The prehistoric creature was related to a beloved carnivore.
“They’d sort of be cousins of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that you’d think of from ‘Jurassic Park,’” Kittle said. “(They) weren’t as big as the T-Rex. They were a little bit smaller.”
The Dryptosaur roamed Delaware between 65 million and 67 million years ago, he added.
“During the time of the dinosaurs, North America had a sea sort of right in the middle of it like where Kansas, Nebraska and places like that were,” Kittle explained. “So the T-Rex was on the west side. And the Dryptosaur was on the eastern coast.″
The principal of Shue-Medill said her students were attracted to the idea that the Dryptosaur had ties to the water because they wanted a dinosaur that reflected Delaware’s relationship to its beaches.
The Dryptosaur, known for its speed, also put the kids in mind of Dover Air Force Base, which is known for having fast planes.
Attorney Deborah Gottschalk helped the students draft the bill.
“She said it was better than some of the legislation turned in by adults,” the principal said. “We’re super proud.”
Instructional coach Casey Montigney helped organize the children so they could cast votes for their favorite dinos.
While Baumbach supports the dinosaur bill, he reassures his constituents that spending time on this legislation isn’t taking away from bigger issues in the state.
“I think the main thing is, we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said. “It’s a false dichotomy to say, ‘If we do this, we can’t do the big stuff. No, we can do both.’”
Baumbach hopes giving students the opportunity to testify about dinosaurs in Leg Hall will inspire them to tackle larger issues in the future.
“I’m hoping that in high school, some of them might join the speech and debate team,” he said. “They can get more civically involved as they become adults.”