December 23, 2012

Brontosaurus, Wait No It’s An Apatosaurus

So many people spend their youth learning about and loving dinosaurs. If they are anything like me, they wanted to have one as a pet. When most people picture a dinosaur, they picture a T-Rex or a Brontosaurus. The sad news, though, is that there is no such creature as a Brontosaurus. It was made up during the Bone Wars of 130 years ago according to a story on redOrbit.

See, back in the late 1880s, two paleontologists were embroiled in a battle of the bones—dino bones, that is. In an effort to find fame and fortune, not to mention be the best paleontologist of his time, O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope dug up and named newly found dinosaur skeletons as quickly as they could in hopes to beat the other. They even went so far as to crush leftover bones just to prevent the other from making some new discovery.

Instead of working together to unveil the dinosaur species, they competed to be the best paleontologist and discoverer. Through this competition came the unfortunate mis-discovery of the Brontosaurus. Here’s what happened in the words of the original NPR story:

“…in 1877, that Marsh discovered the partial skeleton of a long-necked, long-tailed, leaf-eating dinosaur he dubbed Apatosaurus. It was missing a skull, so in 1883 when Marsh published a reconstruction of his Apatosaurus, Lamanna says he used the head of another dinosaur—thought to be a Camarasaurus—to complete the skeleton.

‘Two years later,’ Lamanna says, ‘his fossil collectors that were working out West sent him a second skeleton that he thought belonged to a different dinosaur that he named Brontosaurus.’”

I bet you can guess what happened years later. That’s right. That second skeleton found out West by Marsh’s fossil collectors was just another Apatosaurus only with skull intact. They sent the same dino bones, but in his feverish competition with Cope, Marsh rushed to name another new dinosaur. Thus enter Brontosaurus.

A scant 26 years later, the mistaken identification was realized by scientists, yet the Brontosaurus continued to insist on its existence. The scientific community simply did not care enough to rectify the mistake. Thus came the prevalence of the Brontosaurus.

I would venture to say that not one person sees a long-necked, small-headed green dinosaur without thinking, “Oh, why that’s a Brontosaurus.”  So many instances of the Brontosaurus in pop culture continue to support the existence of the Brontosaurus. In film, there’s Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend. In TV, we see the Brontosaurus in The Flintstones. Heck, even Jurassic Park makes reference to the Bronto albeit with an immediate correction.

The Brontosaurus is everywhere, yet has never been anywhere. It never existed. This poor being has an entire group of children who love it, but it simply does not exist. And those poor children think their favorite dinosaur is a Brontosaurus, but it is really the Apatosaurus, which means that the Apatosaurus gets no love, or at least people don’t know they love it.

The only good to come out of this is the acknowledgement that Brontosaurus is the better name because it means thunder lizard while Apatosaurus means deceptive lizard. I guess, the Bronto will always have that.

Image Credit: Photos.com

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

Send Rayshell an email