The legendary name Brontosaurus was once used to describe a family of enormous dinosaurs. It now has been revived after being scrapped off more than a one hundred years ago.
In 1903, a commission of scientists came to the conclusion that Brontosaurus was a more complete specimen of a distinct dinosaur. As many more specimens of plant-eating dinosaurs are now known, experts are allowed to accomplish the most complete analysis of their bones. The results have been published in the journal PeerJ.
The name Brontosaurus originates from the late 1800s, during the so-called Bone Wars, when Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, two rival fossil hunters, entered new dinosaur names in the scientific world. In their quest for new samples of dinosaurs, Cope and Marsh went on to discover the rich fossil beds in western America.
Marsh’s team discovered two sauropods with long necks. One of them was named Apatosaurus ajax (Apatosaurus means “deceptive lizard”), while the other was ”baptized” Brontosaurus excelsus (Brontosaurus is translated as “noble thunder lizard”).
After Marsh died, a team of archaeologists from Field Museum of Chicago discovered more dinosaur skeletons similar to both species. As the researchers concluded that Apatosaurus ajax and Brontosaurus excelsus were both part of the same specific genus, being just different species, Apatosaurus took precedence because it had been named first.
The name Brontosaurus is widely known by many generations of schoolchildren. It is not very clear why the name stuck, but it did, and now, Emanuel Tschopp from the New University of Lisbon in Portugal and some of his colleagues decided to statistically calculate the differences between species and genera of diplodocid dinosaurs.
“Until very recently, the claim that Brontosaurus was the same as Apatosaurus was completely reasonable, based on the knowledge we had,” said Mr Tschopp, who explains that Brontosaurus was in fact a distinct dinosaur.
The scientists said that it is now possible to bring forward Brontosaurus as a genus, which has nothing to do with from Apatosaurus.
“The author finds a number of ways in which the original specimens of Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus can be separated from each other and uses these to resurrect Brontosaurus as a separate entity,” said Prof Paul Barrett, of London’s Natural History Museum.
Other research carried out in the 1970s revealed that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus would have had a narrow, horse-like skull. This study started a popular myth that Brontosaurus was an Apatosaurus with a weird head.
Image Source: Foto Libra