There’s a movement afoot on Beacon Hill that's been more than 200 million years in the making: Massachusetts will soon have an official state dinosaur. Representative Jack Lewis, a Democrat from Framingham, plans to introduce legislation in the state house next week to make it official. He joined Joe Mathieu on GBH's Morning Edition today to discuss the educational effort.

Lewis, a Cub Scout den leader, hatched the idea early in the pandemic, when he was trying to think of creative ways to engage with his Cub Scouts as they learned about dinosaurs and fossils. Lewis created an online survey and invited residents of the Commonwealth to choose between two options for the state dinosaur: Holyoke’s Podokesaurus or Springfield’s Anchisaurus. Lewis said that, as of last night, more than 10,000 votes have been cast.

The two candidates — one a carnivore and one an herbivore — are the only two dinosaur species that have been discovered in Massachusetts. The Podokesaurus was discovered in Holyoke in 1910 by Mignon Talbot, the first woman to identify a dinosaur by name. Lewis revealed that the "Swift-footed lizard of Holyoke" has taken the lead in the online survey.

The Podokesaurus holds an early lead over the Anchisaurus in the polls.

The Anchisaurus, discovered in 1855 in Springfield, is believed to be the first dinosaur discovered and documented in North America. It has a long neck like its more famous cousin, the Brachiosaurus, but a more diminutive size: it was only around 6-feet in length. “While these aren’t the huge creatures we all know from our childhood or movies, they have historic significance in paleontology,” Lewis said.

Dr. Susan Heilman, program manager of community initiatives at the Museum of Science, Boston and longtime fan of dinosaurs, is thrilled about the upcoming legislation and the recognition for New England’s hometown dinosaurs.

“They're both little guys, they're both very cute. They both probably only stood maybe a foot or so off the ground,” Heilman said. “So Anchisaurus gets a little bit of my vote because it's probably an early version of the more famous, huge longneck dinosaurs that you see later on."

"While these aren't the huge creatures we all know from our childhood or movies, they have historic significance in paleontology."
Rep. Jack Lewis

Heilman, who has worked on several dinosaur excavations out West, noted that because of Massachusetts’ geography and that it’s covered in forests, roads and cities, we aren’t likely to find many dinosaurs — but we have something else.

“We have no dinosaurs, but we are one of the world class places to find dinosaur footprints,” she said. In fact, the Massachusetts state fossil is the Eubrontes, a large three-toed dinosaur footprint discovered in the Connecticut River Valley.

Once voting concludes, Lewis plans to introduce the bill next week, where it will go through the standard legislative process of committees and voting. Lewis is heartened by the overwhelming public response to the campaign.

“If they [the dinosaurs] can help young folks better understand the democratic process, if they can help young folks connect interests to possible future careers, then I’m happy to engage the thousands and thousands of people across the commonwealth who are interested in this pursuit,” he said.

The state already has a state bird, the black-capped chickadee, and a state flower, which is, of course, the mayflower.

GBH News' Mary Blake contributed to this article