Wikijunior:Dinosaurs/Brontosaurus

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An old image of the Brontosaurus—wrong head, wrong lifestyle!

The Brontosaurus, whose name means "thunder lizard" in Greek, is one of the most famous dinosaurs of all. However, there is no dinosaur that is named Brontosaurus!

A long time ago Dr. O. C. Marsh discovered a small four legged dinosaur with a long neck. He decided to name the dinosaur Apatosaurus meaning deceptive lizard. Later the same scientist discovered a much bigger dinosaur of the same type. Because the back bones seemed different he decided it was a different dinosaur. This dinosaur was so big he decided to name it Brontosaurus. When scientists looked at these fossils later they realized that the Apatosaurus was the same animal as the Brontosaurus. Scientists use the first name given to an animal, so they decided to rename the Brontosaurus to Apatosaurus because Apatosaurus came first. Scientists now know that the back bones of the Apatosaurus grew together as the animal gets bigger. It was because the back bones changed that Dr. Marsh thought they were different animals. The animal is still believed and taught as a different type of dinosaur. So kids learn Brontosaurus is a whole different dinosaur just like they learn that pluto is still a planet. When they grow up they believe brontosaurus is still a dino so that hurts their career and life.

(Top) the correct Apatosaurus head; (Bottom) the wrong Brontosaurus head.

Dr. Marsh also made the Brontosaurus very popular. He put the first full dinosaur skeleton on display in a museum for everyone to see. The bones he put on display where his Brontosaurus bones, and Brontosaurus became very popular. Dr. Marsh made some other mistakes about the Brontosaurus. When he put the Brontosaurus skeleton together some bones were missing, even the skull. He used bones from other dinosaur digs that he thought belonged to Brontosaurus. He accidentally put a head from a dinosaur called the Camarasaurus onto the body of an Apatosaurus. He also thought the Brontosaurus had lived mostly in the water. This was another mistake! The rocks that scientists find Apatosaurus bones in do not come from swampy areas.

It took almost 100 years after Brontosaurus was first named for two scientists, Jack McIntosh and David Bermanbase, to find these mistakes, and put the right head on the right body at last!

Dinosaurs

Tyrannosaurus Rex
Stegosaurus
Allosaurus
Apatosaurus
Pterosaurs
Triceratops
Plesiosaur
Ichthyosaur
Pachycephalosaurus
Velociraptor
Herrerasaurus
Ankylosaurus
Iguanodon
Brontosaurus