Fun Science Fact


Apatosaurus Reconstruction

ID 39333179 © Mr1805 |

Did you know there’s no such thing as a Brontosaurus any more?

Really. Fred Flintstone actually worked on top of an Apatosaurus.

Why then do we all know the name Brontosaurus?

It all goes back to the late 1800’s when two paleontologists from different universities, O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope, were trying to make names for themselves. They competed against each other to unearth new fossil finds. At this time, Marsh discovered the fossilized body of an Apatosaurus with no head. He named it and published a reconstruction of it with a different skull on the body.

Two years later, Marsh’s field workers sent him another Apatosaurus skeleton (this one with a head) that he mistook for a new type of dinosaur. He named it Brontosaurus. In his rush, to beat Cope, Marsh gave the poor Apatosaurus an identity crisis which has lasted ever since.

Although the mistake was noticed by the early 1900’s, museums were slow to do away with the Brontosaurus and even slower to put the correct skull on Apatosaurus. In fact, the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg had the wrong head on Apatosaurus up until the 1970’s. Can you imagine the identity issues involved in wearing the wrong head for eighty years (sounds like a bad soap opera plot, doesn’t it)?

Even so, kids everywhere still love the name Brontosaurus. I wonder if they could re-use it the next time they find a new sauropod dinosaur?




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