Official Symbols and Emblems of Alabama
Official State Fossil
In 1834 a complete skeleton of a basilosaur (king of the lizards) was found on a plantation in southwestern Alabama. Staff of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences studied the skeleton and said it was not a lizard, but a meat-eating member of the whale family. Because of this they renamed it the zeuglodon (Genus Basilosaurus). Since it was a sea animal they estimated it to be over forty-five million years old (Eocene period). Zeuglodons averaged from fifty-five to seventy feet long and had tails up to forty feet long.
Fossil remains of the Basilosaurus cetoides may not be removed from the state without prior written approval of the governor.
The ancient whale fossil is most abundant in Alabama and many zeuglodon skeletons have been found here. One was found in 1982 near Washington County and is now displayed at the McWane Center in Birmingham. Another was found in Alabama and sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. These are the two most comprehensive Basilosaurus cetoides skeletons ever found.
In 1984 the legislature made the zeuglodon the state fossil by Act no. 84-66.
Updated: January 14, 2010