Endangered turtle named state marine reptile
Californians can rest easy -- the state now has an official state marine reptile.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday granting the honor to the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, or Dermochelys coriacea. (There already was an official reptile, the desert tortoise.)
The turtle is the world's largest living reptile, growing to 2,000 pounds and more than 6 feet in length. Every year, it migrates thousands of miles across the ocean to eat jellyfish along the California coastline.
It's also extremely endangered, and Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), who authored the bill, hopes the legislation, AB 1776, will draw attention to the animals' plight.
"This bill demonstrates California’s commitment to protecting our ocean’s ecosystem and a species whose population has declined more than 95% and whose migratory pattern includes California's coast," Fong said in a statement.
Now the turtle will join the ranks of other official California icons, such as the redwood tree, golden poppy and valley quail.
There's also an array of lesser-known symbols, like the official Gold Rush ghost town (Bodie). And lawmakers haven't hesitated to split categories to make everyone happy -- there's an official state folk dance (square) as well as an official state dance (West Coast swing).
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Volunteers examine a giant leatherback turtle on a beach in Honduras in 2002. Credit: Max Trujillo / Getty Images)