Suciasaurus rex, a meat-eating predator that lived about 88 million years ago, may soon be the official state dinosaur, thanks to eons of geologic upheaval, a chance discovery and some civic engagement by elementary school students.
Regardless of whether the Legislature sees fit to bestow that official designation, Suciasaurus is the state’s only dinosaur – at least in terms of having some fossilized part of an extinct reptile found within the boundaries of Washington.
A forerunner of the better known Tyrannousaurus rex, which often gets starring roles in movies like “Jurassic Park,” Suciasaurus was smaller and lived about 15 million years earlier. Unlike the T. rex, it doesn’t have an official species name but rather a nickname derived from Sucia Island, the place where the fossilized remnant of its upper femur, or thigh bone, was found eight years ago.
In the peer-reviewed scientific paper on the fossil, its name is “indeterminate theropod dinosaur,” said Christian Sidor, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. Theropods are a family of dinosaurs that include the T. rex and the velociraptor and eventually evolved into birds.
“It’s a relative to Tyrannosaurus rex, probably,” Sidor said. “People want to put a name on it.”