The Podokesaurus Holyokensis appears poised to become the official state dinosaur of Massachusetts, after it won more than 60 percent of the more than 35,000 votes cast in Rep. Jack Lewis’s social media campaign.
Lewis, a Framingham Democrat, began his quest to name a state dinosaur on Jan. 4, putting two choices to voters: the Podokesaurus Holyokensis and the Anchisaurus Polyzelus. The idea for a state dinosaur came to him when researching ways his youngest child’s Cub Scout den could earn its “Digging in the Past” adventure badge.
When the campaign launched, Lewis said he planned to file legislation naming the state dinosaur on Jan. 15. But, thanks to overwhelming support, he pushed the deadline for voting by two weeks — to Jan. 29. Voting was conducted via a google form.
The Podokesaurus Holyokensis was announced as the winner in a live event hosted by the Museum of Science on Zoom and Facebook Live Thursday at 4 p.m.
During the event, Lewis said he never anticipated the effort to garner as much support as it did.
“I didn’t expect this kind of response and I am so, so grateful for it,” he said.
Lewis said he was rooting for the Podokesaurus throughout the campaign.
“I am excited!” he said. “I’ve been rooting for this one from the beginning”
Twelve states and Washington D.C. currently have state dinosaurs, with the most recent becoming official in 2018.
Lewis chose the two dinosaurs for the Massachusetts origins. The first Podokesaurus Holyokensis fossil was discovered near Mount Holyoke by geologist Mignon Talbot in 1910. She was also the first woman to name and describe a dinosaur, Lewis said. The first Anchisaurus Polyzelus bones were found in Springfield in 1855. The Anchisaurus and Podokesaurus are the only two dinosaur species discovered in Massachusetts, according to Lewis.
“These two dinosaurs are not well known names that many of us learned when we were five, and none of them were on the big screen for movies like ‘Jurassic Park,’ but they are the only two dinosaur species that we have found in Massachusetts,” he said in an interview with the Globe last month. “They actually have an important place in paleontology and Massachusetts has long understood its role with the abundance of fossil footprints in Central and Western Mass.”
One of Lewis’s goals of the campaign was to teach young people about the legislative process, he said.
“One of the things I love to do as a state rep in pre-COVID times is to meet with preschool elementary, middle and high school classes to talk about the work I do, and in those situations I always try to use age appropriate examples to put the work of the legislature into an accessible context,” he said.
Charlie McKenna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.