There’s no such thing as a Brontosaurus

I'm not the sauropod you think I am

I’m generally pretty open-minded when it comes to learning new things and challenging my world view.


But when it comes to the memories of my youth, I have a hard time letting go. Or rather, it’s difficult for me to discover that what I thought was one thing is, in fact, quite the opposite. For example, I recently learned that Over the Top Howard the Duck was a terrible movie. I vowed never to watch The Goonies again so I don’t ruin the memory of the five total days of my life I spent watching Mikey, Chunk, and Mouth worry about hitting the wrong note or they’ll all B-flat.

Like almost every other kid I knew, I was huge into dinosaurs in the ’80s. They were my favorite (formerly) living things. Heck, they were even my favorite robots. Transformers (the toys, not the voltage attenuators) weren’t known for being realistic, but they sure were fun. One of the Dinobots wasn’t even a dinosaur. Boring trivia: Swoop was a Pteranodon, which is a Pterosaur, and therefore a reptile but not a dinosaur. Sludge, the second strongest Dinobot (next to Grimlock the T-Rex and team leader), was a Brontosaur in dino mode.

Sludge was a Brontosaurus

The Brontosaur was my favorite dinosaur. I don’t really know why, but I’m guessing it was either because it’s relatively easy to pronounce, or because it was so darn huge. Or maybe because herbivores are less frightening than the mighty T-Rex. Either way, the Brontosaurus was a fixture in my life for years, and that brings me to the point of this post: There’s no such thing as a Brontosaurus anymore.

It turns out that additional research on “Brontosaur” remains discovered that the gentle giant I loved during pre-sports and cars childhood is really the same species as Apatosaurus, which was discovered/named first, so it has seniority. Therefore, the dinosaur I grew up with is really an Apatosaurus. The name Brontosaurus has been relegated to junior synonym status. The only place you’ll see it now is between parentheses, not unlike Burma, as in: “Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).”

The name Brontosaurus persisted long after the discovery that it was mis-labeled. By the time I learned about it, I should have been calling it the Apatosaurus. But, alas, society isn’t quick to adapt to changes in species names within the family Diplodocidae, so popular culture was littered with Brontosaurs. The giant beast became so famous that the name persisted long after it had been abandoned in scientific circles.

But now it’s over. I can no longer call it a Brontosaurus in polite company.

I suppose this post isn’t relevant to what I intended to do with this blog, but it’s not my first dinosaur-related post. And every once in a while it’s good to see that even science, with the research and rigor, gets things wrong all the time. So it’s okay to question the establishment. Just because something’s been the case for decades doesn’t mean it’s true, valid, or relevant today.


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