what happened to the brontosaurus?

a few months ago a friend and i visited the Museum of Natural History Museum in NY and the brontosaurus was no where to be found. i was perplexed… and he mentioned a rumor that the brontosaurus had never actually existed so it was being phased out of the history collections.

huh?! who growing up did not LOVE the giant herbivore?

i finally did a bit of tap tap research on this laptop-majigy.

and here’s a summary to the history found here

In the late 1860’s, two of America’s most prominent paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, had a falling out and fell into a ‘bone wars’ competition. In 1877 Marsh wrote an article for the American Journal of Science, entitled “Notice of New Dinosaurian Reptiles from the Jurassic Formation,” that established the existence of the Apatosaurus, estimating it to be 50 feet in length. Later that year in the same journal, Marsh announced the Brontosaurus, estimating it to be 70-80 feet in length.


Uncovered: These were the same Jurassic species of dinosaur but the Apatosaurus was “merely a young animal of the form represented in the adult by the Brontosaur specimen.” Elmer Riggs, Field Museum, Chicago, 1903

Also turns out that the Brontosaurus had the wrong bone structure for its head, and actually lives on dry land and not on marshes as first established.

In 1989, there was public outrage that the US Post Office printed stamps with the Brontosaurus and got accused of fostering scientific illiteracy… Today, the official name being taught of the species is Apatosaurus.

~ ~ ~

Now that I know this, I predict some interesting debates with my very intelligent nieces and nephews – since we apparently don’t speak the same dinosaur.

* San Francisco

About janetti !

curious curious curious.
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One Response to what happened to the brontosaurus?

  1. This is exactly the kind of thing George Carlin would have railed on. Well, maybe not railed, but I know he would have been on my side when I say, brontosaurus was a perfectly good name and this is just silliness. Now my daughter will correct me and roll her eyes when I use the wrong name.

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