The Brontosaurus is one of the most iconic dinosaurs. A calm dinosaur that contrasts with the ferocity of the T-Rex. But, there’s been one problem. Scientists have long believed the genus Brontosaurus is actually the Apatosaurus.
That belief changes today with the release of a new study from researchers in Portugal and the UK. In it, they find conclusive evidence that the Brontosaurus is its own dinosaur.
Before we dive into what the paleontologists found, let’s take a quick ride into the past. Since 1903, scientists believed there were not enough differences between Brontosaurus excelsus and Apatosaurus to put the Brontosaurus in its own genus. Since the Apatosaurus was named first, scientists threw Brontosaurus in that genus.
The Brontosaurus’ official scientific name has been Apatosaurus excelsus.
Today, palaeontologists Emanuel Tschopp, Octávio Mateus, and Roger Benson announced the Brontosaurus is a unique genus.
Emanuel Tschopp and Octávio Mateus
The study has nearly 300 pages of evidence and shows that the Brontosaurus is distinct enough to be classified as its own genus. You might be asking yourself, “how can one study reverse what decades of research has shown?” That’s the first thing Tschopp touches on in the press release.
“Our research would not have been possible at this level of detail 15 or more years ago”, said Emanuel Tschopp, lead author of the study. “In fact, until very recently, the claim that Brontosaurus was the same as Apatosaurus was completely reasonable, based on the knowledge we had.”
Science is an ever evolving field. Better technology leads to more discoveries. A paleontologist today has a lot more at their disposal then one just 20 years ago.
The team of researchers looked at the differences between other species and genera to help determine exactly how different Brontosaurus is from Apatosaurus. “The differences we found between Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were at least as numerous as the ones between other closely related genera, and much more than what you normally find between species,” said Roger Benson, a co-author from the University of Oxford.
“It’s the classic example of how science works,” said Professor Mateus, who helped on the research. “Especially when hypotheses are based on fragmentary fossils, it is possible for new finds to overthrow years of research.”
At least Jurassic Park can say they had it right when they mentioned Brontosaurus several times.
Image credit: Davide Bonadonna