Bringing Brontosaurus Back
Congratulations everyone, we have reclaimed a teeny part of our childhoods. Everyone’s 3rd favorite dinosaur got relegated to the ranks of imaginary creatures along with unicorns and mermaids as paleontologist Elmer Riggs evaluated the original Brontosaurus specimen only to realize that it was identical to the Apatosaurus. This was a major bummer because the word Brontosaurus means “thunder lizard,” which is empirically more awesome than the meaning of Apatosaurus, “deceptive reptile.” Unfortunately, in scientific naming conventions the earliest-discovered specimen name becomes the default in these types of cases and the cool name was lost.
Side note, I remember learning about the Brontosaurus as a kid and I totally had a Brontosaurus toy and a Brontosaurus page in my dinosaur book. I recall learning in 8th grade that the Brontosaurus was really an Apatosaurus as though it were news. Apparently Elmer Riggs’ de-dinosaurification of the Brontosaurus happened in 1903 which means it took about 100 years for that to trickle down into my science classes.
dinosaur scientist vertebrate paleontologist Emanuel Tschopp of the New University of Lisbon is the lead author of a study published examining 477 features of 81 different sauropod specimens to clarify relationships between the different species. What they found was that there are distinct genera within the sauropod family of diplodocids that include: Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus.
The study concludes that there are three separate species of Brontosaurus: Brontosaurus excelsus– the first discovered, Brontosaurus parvus, and Brontosaurus yahnahpin.
Someone better make three distinct Brontosaurus action figures so that I can add them to my collection. I hope that next, pluto gets reinstated as a planet so that I can glue the teeny styrofoam ball back on my diorama.
Thanks to my friend Antonio for sending me this story.
Image by Charles R Knight [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: BBC News