Most people know about the Brontosaurus from the movie Jurassic Park or the animation The Land Before Time. It is a long-neck herbivore dinosaur. The Brontosaurus was relegated for the first time in 1879 by Othniel Charles Marsh, a famous paleontologist. However in 1903 Elmer Riggs reevaluated the dinosaur and said that it was a younger species of the Apatosaurus. The dinosaur had no clear name for more than a century.
An international team of paleontologists has returned the Brontosaurus its original name. Emanuel Tschopp, the leader of the study together with Octavio Mateus of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Roger Benson wrote about this case in a paper published in the journal Peer J on Tuesday. They claim that Riggs was not right. They have discovered enough differences to prove that the Brontosaurus was indeed a different genus. They cross-referenced the digital variants of various dinosaur bones coming from the Diplodocidae family. This species of dinosaurs is characterized by short legs, thin tails and long necks. Moreover the scientist decided that the Brontosaurus can be placed at the top of its own species.
It seems that the mistake made regarded the sacrum bones, the area where the tail joins with the spinal cord. The sacrum bones in the case of Apatosaurus consisted of three bones, whereas the Brontosaurus sacrum had five bones. Riggs considered that the Brontosaurus was a younger species of Apatosaurus and its sacrum bones would fuse together in time, as the dinosaur grew older. Bone fusing is a common phenomenon and it happens even in humans.
Emanuel Tschopp said that there will always be people who won’t agree with details of the research, but some will be very excited to find out that the most famous species of dinosaur of all time is now properly classified.
The study reviewed the entire problem of classification. The researchers tried to develop a more accurate method to classify both Apatosaurus and Diplodocus fossils, a relative of the Apatosaurus. They gathered 81 fossil specimens from museums all around the world and analyzed hundreds of their characteristics. Tschopp explained that this kind of detailed research would not have been possible 15 years before.
This also explains why considering the Brontosaurus being the same as Apatosaurus did not seem an unrealistic theory taking into account the poor knowledge in the domain. Benson even said that the differences between the two species were just as many as the differences between any other two closely related genera.
Image Source: Bling Cheese
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