Washington State dino fossil

Scientists had a bone to pick in Washington and it turned out to be the first dinosaur fossil ever discovered in the West Coast state.

The fragmented femur bone, which would have been about four feet long unbroken, had been underwater for millions of years but was spotted by scientists searching for other fossilized animals along the shore of the San Juan Islands, a ferry ride from Seattle.

Paleontologists at the University of Washington determined the bone was a mere 80m years old and from a theropod — the family of two-legged, mostly meat-eating dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor that are related to modern-day birds. As the Seattle Times describes it: "Think of a carnivorous transit bus with bone-crunching teeth."

The finding makes Washington the 37th state in America with dino bones. Active plate tectonics along with urban development have made it difficult for scientists to find dinosaur fossils there, the researchers said. It's one of the northernmost discoveries of a Mesozoic dinosaur on the US West Coast.

"It will be a point of civic pride for the state," declared Brandon Peecock, a University of Washington graduate student and co-author of the research paper on the finding.

The scientists aren't certain of the exact type of dinosaur their big bone comes from. It's not a T-Rex, which existed 15m years after their finding, but could be a Tyrannosauroid.

The fossil is on display at Seattle's Burke Museum this week.