EFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Bollinger County can now stake its claim as Missouri's official dinosaur territory.
Gov. Bob Holden on Friday signed legislation declaring Hypsibema missouriensis, a species whose fossils have only been found on farm near Glenallen, as the state dinosaur of Missouri.
Hypsibema missouriensis bones are on display at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill. Museum president Eva Dunn said publicity generated by the bill, which the General Assembly passed in May, has proved a boon.
"It already had a dramatic impact on the museum," Dunn said. "We've tripled the number of visitors."
The museum attracted about 5,000 visitors last year. It is open Thursdays through Saturdays from noon to 4:30 p.m. Tours on other days can be arranged by appointments.
School groups have accounted for much of the recent boom in visitors, Dunn said. Having a state dinosaur has an added educational benefit, she said.
"With that being an official symbol now, Missouri school children will be learning about it and maybe pique interest for future paleontologists," Dunn said.
Hypsibema missouriensis dates about 67 million years ago to the late Cretaceous period. The four-legged duck-billed herbivore had approximately 1,000 small teeth and weighed as much as an elephant. It was about 35 feet long from nose to tail and stood 10 feet tall.
The Glenallen fossil site was discovered in 1942 and continues to be excavated. It is the only location in Missouri where dinosaur bones have been found. Because of Missouri's soft sediment, dinosaur remains have long since eroded away in most areas of the state.
The bill is HB 1209.