California has a state bird, a state flower and even a state fossil — the saber-toothed cat. Joining the bunch could be an official state marine reptile.
A bill introduced last week by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) would name the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle to a growing list of symbols that includes the California quail, the gray whale, the California poppy and the garibaldi — the state marine fish.
The leatherback, the world's largest sea turtle, would claim an entry in the law books right below — and not to be confused with — its relative the desert tortoise, a landlubber that has held the title of state reptile since 1972.
The symbolic measure, intended to raise awareness about the imperiled creatures, comes as the federal government is setting aside 41,000 square miles of the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington as critical habitat for leatherback turtles, which can weigh in at 2,000 pounds and measure 8 feet long.