SALT LAKE CITY — Wearing a suit and tie, 10-year-old Kenyon Roberts expertly fielded questions from a Senate committee Friday about why the Utahraptor should become the state's official dinosaur.
"This dinosaur was a theropod," Roberts explained. "Theropods are the dinosaurs that little kids love, like T-Rex, the dinosaurs that walked on two legs and ate everything in their path."
He described the dinosaur discovered in Grand County in 1990 as being able to reach the "phenomenal" speed of 20 mph and said it is the only actual raptor big enough to resemble the villainous velociraptors featured in the Jurassic Park movies.
Before unanimously voting to advance SB43, a bill establishing the Utahraptor as the state dinosaur, members of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee played a game to test Roberts' knowledge of dinosaurs.
No matter what letter they chose, however, Roberts was quick to respond with the name of a dinosaur starting with that letter and a list of details about it. He even answered simply "correct" when asked if he had also lectured the bill's sponsor.
That sponsor, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said Roberts not only educated him about the Utahraptor, but also talked him into running the bill. Initially, Bramble had initially sought to replace the state fossil, the Allosaurus, with the Utahraptor.
Bramble told the committee he was usually a cynic when it comes to state symbols, but naming a state dinosaur was different because of the "role Utah had in the real world in discovering an animal that was depicted on the big screen."
"This is a pretty cool thing," he said.
State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who discovered the Utahraptor, showed off just how much bigger its claws were than the movie version. He said he was excited that his discovery helped "get our youth involved in politics."
Rod Scheetz, curator of BYU's Museum of Paleontology, said there is a lot of interest in the Utahraptor among young museum visitors.
"In every kids' mind, the Utahraptor is the state dinosaur," Scheetz said. "So it would be a little disappointing if it wasn’t."