Fossil fish stole votes from Gore

The most bizarre US presidential election in history also had a geological twist.  Kansas fossil dealer Alan Dietrich asked voters in Barton County to write in the name of a large Cretaceous fish on their ballots, where local politicians were running unchallenged – no chads for this enlightened county!  Xiphactinus, one specimen of which contains the fossilized remains of its last hapless victim and which is peculiar to the Cretaceous marine sequence of Kansas, polled 235 votes, only 15 fewer than the Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, and, arguably, enough to have returned the Democrat Gore to the White House, had they been cast in Florida.

Dietrich is best known for peddling a Tyrannosaurus rex with a US$20 million price tag, but is intent on Xiphactinus becoming the state fossil – a tradition that we Britons must surely have taken up at the shire or metropolitan level long ago, but for the abundance of even more archaic, bizarre and living human candidates.    Jest not about Alan Dietrich, however, for his campaign is a celebration of the collapse of creationism in Kansas.

Source:  Holden, C. (Ed.) 2000.  Random Samples.  Science, v. 290 (8 December issue), p. 1887.

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