Like many, you probably find dinosaurs fascinating — whether you are inclined toward the evolution theory or not. Dinosaurs come in all shapes and sizes, and there are also a large number of equally interesting and extinct creatures which share similar structure, appearance and size with dinosaurs, but are not dinosaurs. However, that is a totally different article on its own. One of the most popular and recognizable dinosaurs today is the “Brontosaurus.” However, in this article I will tell you exactly why there is technically only one individual Brontosaurus in the world.
If at this point you are still wondering whether or not you know what a Brontosaurus looks like, well, remember Littlefoot from The Land Before Time animations? Yeah, he is what is popularly called a Brontosaurus. However, he and his kind are NOT truly Brontosaurus, but Apatosaurus. The nomenclature is so popularly misused that even the word editor I am typing this on does not recognize the term “Apatosaurus,” but recognizes “Brontosaurus.” This owes to the fact that popular culture has taken a special liking to the term Brontosaurus from as far back as 1914, when the first cartoon featuring a Brontosaurus was made. Following that, there have been numerous ones, and even children’s books refer to the species as Brontosaurus.
Now, how did this all come about? In 1877, Dr. Othniel Charles Marsh discovered a long neck, and long tail dinosaur fossil which he named Apatosaurus. Two years later, he found a similar, but larger fossil. This new fossil had some difference in its back bone, so he assumed it was a different creature, and named this one Brontosaurus. Many years later, it was discovered by other scientists that the original Apatosaurus fossil was actually a young Brontosaurus. This ultimately meant that they were in fact the same species. In the world of science, the oldest published name assigned to a newly discovered species becomes the default name, or official name. Therefore, the original name “Apatosaurus” was adopted as the official name of this species.
That said, there is really no species of dinosaurs officially called “Brontosaurus” today- BUT, there is one fossil in the world today, which can still be accurately called Brontosaurus. It lives in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, and is the original fossil to have been named Brontosaurus by Dr. Marsh. By virtue of that fact, it is indeed the one and only Brontosaurus in the world.
“Apatosaurus and Other Giant Long-Necked Plant-Eaters” by Virginia Schomp : 12-13.
“Structure and Relationships of Opisthocoelian Dinosaurs. Part I, Apatosaurus Marsh”. Publications of the Field Columbian Museum. Geological Series (2): 165-196.”
“Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.” – Yale.