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If Gov. McCrory Signs Off, NC To Have New State Symbols: ‘Whirligigs,’ Salamander, Opossum and More

Compiled By Jesse Wood

June 21, 2013. If the governor gives the OK, soon an opossum and extinct shark may join milk and granite on the list of North Carolina’s state symbols.

Both houses of the N.C. General Assembly recently passed House Bill 830 to adopt new official symbols for North Carolina that range from a marsupial and salamander to the fossil of an extinct species and an art medium called “whirligigs.”

The bill was ratified on Thursday and now awaits Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature.

Fossil: Megalodon Shark

If McCrory approves, the Tar Heel State’s fossil will become the megalodon shark, which is an extinct shark species that lived over 1.5 million years, reaching perhaps to more than 40 feet long and weighing up to 100 tons.

Off the coast of North Carolina, the serrated, heart-shaped teeth of the megalodon, which grow more than seven inches in length, are treasures that scuba divers scour in the sea for.

Frog: Pine Barrens Tree Frog

North Carolina and the Southeast region of the U.S. lead the world in amphibian diversity, according to language in the bill, and the pine barrens tree frog, which is found in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain regions the Tar Heel State, is considered one of the most striking and beautiful frogs in the Southeast.

It’s moniker also reflects “one of North Carolina’s signature trees and ecosystems vital to the state’s economic, cultural and natural history since colonial times,” the bill reads.

Salamander: Marbled Salamander

Most notably in Western North Carolina, the state leads the nation in salamander diversity. Found across the state, the marbled salamander is “charismatic, striking, chunky-bodied, fossorial amphibian, of which no two are exactly alike in color pattern.”

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission identified both the pine barrens tree frog and the marbled salamander on its N.C. Wildlife Action Plan as a priority species for population monitoring and conservation.

Marsupial: Virginia Opossum

Image of opossum courtesy of N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Image of opossum courtesy of N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

According to the bill, the Virginia opossum is native to North Carolina and is the only marsupial found in North America. The bill describes the marsupial as the size of a large house cat with a triangular head, a long-pointed nose, dark eyes, a long scaly, prehensile tail and short black lengthy ears.

“The female carries its underdeveloped young in a pouch until they are capable of living independently, similar to a kangaroo  … and the Virginia opossum is one of the oldest and most primitive species of mammal found in North America.”

Folk Art: Whirligigs

Whirligigs - Photo courtesy of Wilson Visitors Center
Whirligigs – Photo courtesy of Wilson Visitors Center

At the age of 65, Vollis Simpson, a self-taught artist, began making giant windmills known as “whirligigs” at his Wilson home. His body of work has been featured in the N.C. Musuem of Art in Raleigh; High Museum of Art in Atlanta; Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore; and in other states and countries.

Currently, the City of Wilson is developing the Vollis Simpson Wirligig Park to display a large collection of these whirligigs in historic downtown, which plans to be a one-of-a-kind destination.

Art Medium: Clay

From the Native Americans inhabiting what is now known as the U.S. and the European settlers continuing traditions of its ancestors to potters today designing pottery with utilitarian and esthetic elements, pottery continues to thrive in the North Carolina. 

Clay continues to be an important art medium contributing to the state’s cultural, social and economic prosperity, according to House Bill 830.

Click here to see current symbols of the state: http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/kidspg/symbols.htm