Brontosaurus Controversy

In commenting on my post “Swimming Dinosaurs”, Tony asked about the controversy concerning the name “brontosaurus.” Most of us grew up knowing a few key dinosaurs, among them the ferocious T-Rex and the enormous (but docile) Brontosaurus. As it turns out, the Brontosaurus is no more- and I don’t mean extinct, that happened 145 million years ago.

Tony points us to an Wikipedia article and asks why we continued to delude ourselves for so long. An article on The Straight Dope explains the situation in some detail. Basically, a number of heads got mixed up on dinosaur skeletons in the late 1800s. The Brontosaurus was the result of a totally unrelated head (a camarasaurus) being placed on an apatosaurus body. While it was understood by the early 1900s that the two dinos were actually the same (bronto and apato) it wasn’t until the 1970s that the entire mix-up was completely straightened out and museums started correcting their displays.

I think the reason the change never really caught on was that so many books (mostly for children) had already  been published before the names were corrected that the name “brontosaurus” was too firmly entrenched in our collective vocabulary. Add to that the generations of science teachers that taught (and probably still do) the name “brontosaurus” to their classes because that is what they learned.

Categorized as dinosaurs

By Mark

Mark is an architect in San Francisco.


  1. Oh man. Now what will I tell Birdy? She is totally bronto-centric and I think the damage is irreversible.

  2. that’s why i mentioned the creationists photoshopping jesus riding on one. inaccuracy has many faces. 🙂

    poor birdie though (or gertie as i call her) – that’s rough. sorry andy – hope she takes it okay.

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