The Story of the Astrodon

In late November, 1858 Phillip Thomas Tyson, the State Agricultural Chemist ("State Geologist"), and future President of the Maryland Academy of Sciences, was visiting an open pit iron mine on the farm of John D. Latchford. His job was to make the first geological map of Maryland. What he found in the mine pit was a surprise - two teeth from a DINOSAUR!

Tyson brought the teeth to the next meeting of the Maryland Academy of Sciences. There he gave them to Dr. Christopher Hohnston, in whose honor the dinosaur was later named. Dr. Johnston, a professor of dentistry, cut and polished a tooth. When he looked at the cut section under a microscope he noticed it had showed a star pattern. Because of this he named the dinosaur who owned the teeth ASTRODON, which means "star tooth".

In 1865, Professor Joseph Leidy of the University of Pennsylvania, the man who name the first dinosaur from North America, gave our state dinosaur its formal name - Astrodon johnstoni.

Many years later, Dr. Peter Kranz, a paleontologist studying Maryland dinosaurs, suggested to State Senator Arthur Dorman, that Astrodon johnstoni be made the state dinosaur. Then Governor William Donald Schaefer liked the idea. So did the future Governor Parris Glendenning. Unfortunately, the Maryland House of Delegates failed to pass the bill by two votes in 1992.

In 1998, school children from all over Maryland, assisted by Dr. Kranz, Sen. Dorman McFadden, Del. Pitkin, and the Maryland Science Center led a campaign to make Astrodon johnstoni the state dinosaur. The bill passed in April 1998, and was signed on May 12, 1998, by Gov. Glendenning in front of hundreds of school children.

It was the first dinosaur found in Maryland and the first sauropod (i.e. a plant -eating dinosaur with a very long neck and very long tail), found in North America. Maryland has many other types of dinosaurs and new one are still being found, but Astrodon johnstoni was the first.

Astrodon Johnstoni Facts

Name: Astrodon Johnstoni (pronounced astro-don jon-ston-eye)
Nickname: Astro
Name means: "star tooth" of Dr. Johnston
Found By: Phillip Thomas Tyson, November 1858
Named by: Dr. Christopher Johnston in 1859, and Dr. Joseph Leidy in 1865
Age: Lower Cretaceous, about 110 million years ago
Type of Dinosaur: Sauropod, brachiosaur
Food: Plants
Height: more than 10 meters (40 feet)
Length: more than 20 meters (80 feet)
Weight: more than 20 tonnes (20 tons)