It seems impossible that anyone could make a 15 ton, 22m long dinosaur disappear, but that’s exactly what scientists did to the Brontosaurus.
For the last hundred years they have been telling people that this magnificent dinosaur did not really exist. It all started back in America in 1877; two paleontologists called Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh began a race to see who could discover the most extinct species first. This competition between the two became known as the ‘Bone Wars’, which sounds a lot more dramatic than it actually was. Because the two men were so determined to win, they ended up making a lot of mistakes, and possibly the biggest one of these was to do with the Brontosaurus.
Othniel Charles Marsh discovered two new sauropods (big, long-necked dinosaurs) and named them Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus. However, in his eagerness, he made several mistakes – he even put the wrong head on the Brontosaurus body! By 1903 scientists had looked properly at all his evidence and decided that the two dinosaurs were actually the same, Apatosaurus was just a teenage Brontosaurus. Because Apatosaurus had been named first, that name stayed, and so began a long battle to stop using the term Brontosaurus.
Fast forward to 2015 and scientists have now had enough fossils and bones to examine to decide that Marsh was right all along, and they have resurrected the forgotten Brontosaurus. The main differences seem to be that Brontosaurus was more slender and had a higher neck with a longer skull on the end. They might change their minds again in another hundred years – who knows? – but for now this ‘Thunder Lizard’ is here to stay.