Massachusetts Names Official State Dinosaur: ‘Swift-footed Lizard’


Jonathan Buscher

Podokesaurus Holyokensis, whose name means “swift-footed lizard of Holyoke,” a dinosaur discovered in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was named the state’s official dinosaur on Wednesday, October 19, 2022. This act was approved by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who stated, “If I think about my own childhood … the thing that got me interested in science in the first place was dinosaurs,” during the ceremonial signing on the steps of the Museum of Science in Boston. 

The way the dinosaur was chosen: a social media campaign last year, where it received approximately 35,000 votes, or 60%, beating another Massachusetts native dinosaur. This survey was initiated by Representative Jack Lewis, who said that initially, he was trying to design interesting projects for a group of Cub Scouts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lewis said that the campaign not only helped to get the kids involved and interested in science and paleontology, but also in legislative processes, which this proposal had to go through before Podokesaurus Holyokensis became the state dinosaur. 

Not only will the decision for the ‘swift-footed lizard’ to become a state symbol have modern-day implications, but there is also an important historical context for the animal. Podokesaurus Holyokensis was discovered in 1910 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which is on the western side of the state. The dinosaur was small as well, measuring only three to six feet long, weighing about ninety pounds, and only being able to run about nine to twelve miles per hour. More impactful than statistics, however, the fossil was found by college professor Mignon Talbot, who represented many firsts, including being the first woman to find, describe, name, and discover a dinosaur. Lewis hopes that this fact will help to inspire young girls across the state to become interested in science and delve into the field of paleontology a little. 

Massachusetts is not the only state to do this either, with around twelve other states already having a state dinosaur. Still, this new symbol of Massachusetts represents a push towards science exploration, especially with the coincidence that this naming occurred in the same week as Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito’s STEM education celebration week.