In addition to a state dog (the Boston terrier) and a state bird (the chickadee), Massachusetts now has an official state dinosaur: the swift-footed Holyoke lizard.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, surrounded by a group of paleontologists and lawmakers, celebrated the swift-footed lizard, also known as Podokesaurus holyokensis, the state’s official dinosaur at a ceremony at the Boston Museum of Science. The state legislature passed the bill in May, according to a release from the Science Museum.
The first and only known Podokesaurus fossil was discovered in 1910 by geologist Mignon Talbot near Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts, which gave the species its name. The two-legged, bony carnivore would have been 3 to 6 feet long and weighed 90 pounds, according to the Science Museum.
State Representative Jack Lewis, who sponsored the bill, told CNN the idea for the bill came about as a pandemic passion project. Kub Scout was looking for ways to make virtual meetings more exciting for participants.
“I soon discovered that a dozen states had already declared the official state dinosaur, but Massachusetts was not one of them,” he said in an emailed statement to CNN.
So he turned to leading paleontologists, and “the idea of a state dinosaur project was born.”
Lewis created a poll in which more than 35,000 residents voted for their favorite of the two dinosaurs found in Massachusetts. “Podokesaurus holyokensis emerged as the clear favorite,” Lewis said. The missing dinosaur was Anchisaurus polyzelus, found in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Along with state Sen. Jo Comerford and state representatives Mindy Domb and Dan Carey, she introduced legislation to recognize Podokesaurus as the state dinosaur.
The project helped connect Massachusetts residents with their representatives, Lewis said. And it helped highlight the achievements of women scientists like Talbot, the first woman elected to the Paleontological Society.
“The Science Museum and other STEM advocates brought the story of Professor Talbot and her discovery into classroom conversations in an effort to further expand the number of women and girls in science careers,” Lewis wrote.
“I never would have imagined the breadth and depth of this project, or how much we all needed something fun and educational to come together during the pandemic,” he continued.
“I will never again question the power of dinosaurs to inspire, connect and educate.”