The Brontosaurus never existed: A tale from the Bone Wars
2012 12 10

By Eric Pfeiffer | The Sideshow

This may be old news to dinosaur history experts around the world, but many of us have continued to name check the Brontosaurus, which never actually existed.

Still, as NPR reports, the story of how the Brontosaurus legend began is a fascinating tale that sheds light on the far-from-perfect origins of scientific discovery.


A 1934 photo showing the "Brontosaurus" wearing the wrong skull (Carnegie Museum)


In 1877, two paleontologists were competing to see who could make the most discoveries of dinosaur remains. Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope were bitter personal rivals who sometimes took extreme measures to show-up one another. Their rivalry was so intense, it became known as the Bone Wars.

"There are stories of either Cope or Marsh telling their fossil collectors to smash skeletons that were still in the ground, just so the other guy couldn’t get them," Matt Lamanna, curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, told NPR’s All Things Considered. "It was definitely a bitter, bitter rivalry."

At the height of their rivalry, Marsh discovered a partial skeleton of a long-necked, long-tailed dinosaur that was missing a head. To hurry along the process so he could claim the credit, he substituted the skull of another dinosaur and dubbed the finding Apatosaurus.

"Two years later, 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," Lamanna said.

However, the skeleton was actually another Apatosaurus. Much like with the earlier discovery of the first Apatosaurus, had Marsh waited for more evidence, the mistaken claim may have been avoided. But in a rush to top his rival, Marsh went for the quick victory of marking another "discovery." And thus the history of the Brontosaurus began.

As it turns out, Marsh’s mistake was called out by scientists long before the public was willing to let the Brontosaurus go, with the record being set straight over a century ago in 1903. And as NPR notes, even the Carnegie Museum itself placed the wrong head on a Apatosaurus skeleton in 1932, calling it a Brontosaurus.

Finally, in the 1979, two Carnegie researchers matched the skeleton with an actual Apatosaurus skull that was discovered in Utah in 1910.

Nonetheless, the Brontosaurus has remained a fixture in popular culture. Is it simple ignorance, or something deeper? As the Discovery Channel notes, "When music star Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph, everyone still called him ’Prince.’ Similar confusion surrounds the dinosaur Apatosaurus, which many still refer to as ’Brontosaurus.’"

"Brontosaurus means ’thunder lizard,’" Lamanna said. "It’s a big, evocative name, whereas Apatosaurus means ’deceptive lizard.’ It’s quite a bit more boring."


Article from: news.yahoo.com





Related Articles
Whatever Happened to the Brontosaurus?


Latest News from our Front Page

EU on high alert as Germany accepts Ebola patients
2014 07 30
A German hospital has agreed to treat Ebola patients amid widespread fears of a possible outbreak of the deadly disease in Europe. Over 670 people have already been killed by the disease in West Africa with doctors struggling to control the epidemic. A German hospital in Hamburg agreed to accept patients following a request from the World Health Organization (WHO), Deutsche ...
Bolivia declares Israel terrorist regime
2014 07 30
Bolivia has declared Israel a “terrorist state” and revoked a visa exemption agreement with Tel Aviv in protest at the ongoing Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip. The move "means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state," President Evo Morales said during talks with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba ...
Pagan Traditions: Mysteries of medieval graffiti in England’s churches
2014 07 30
Medieval graffiti of straw kings, pentagrams, crosses, ships and "demon traps" have been offering a tantalising glimpse into England’s past. What do the pictures reveal about life in the Middle Ages? A project to record the graffiti, which began in Norfolk, has now been rolled out to other areas and is gradually spreading across England. Armed with just a torch and a ...
More Gigantic Holes Appear in Siberia’s ’End of the World’
2014 07 30
Is it the end of the world in Siberia’s ’End of the World’? Scientists suspect not, but they’re still investigating the strange and alarming holes that are swallowing up the Siberian north. This week two new holes have been discovered, and with similar characteristics as the first reported hole: a very deep shaft with smooth sides, debris surrounding the rim, and water ...
BLACKLISTED: The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
2014 07 30
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, ...
More News »