Welcome back, thunder lizard! A new study has found that Brontosaurus, the Pluto of dinosaurs, actually does exist. For over a century, paleontologists (well, just one, this guy named Elmer Riggs in 1903) have maintained that the bones belonging to the newfound Brontosaurus were just a mistaken identification of bones from the already-existing Apatosaurus. Since the first name established for a dinosaur is kept as the official name, this wiped Brontosaurus from the official records. (This is also the fate that befell our beloved LukeSkywalkerasaurus, the toy we created by gluing Luke’s action figure head to a Dilophosaurus toy.)
But now it’s “canon” again! According to a new study published in the open-access journal PeerJ, a re-examination of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus fossils showed that they contained enough differences to qualify as two separate species. Brontosaurus LIVES! And The Flintstones is historically accurate again!
Scientifc American spoke to Jacques Gauthier at the Yale Peabody Museum, where the first Brontosaurus ever unearthed is still proudly displayed:
“We’re delighted that Brontosaurus is back,” says Jacques Gauthier, curator of vertebrate paleontology and vertebrate zoology at Peabody, who did not participate in this study. “I grew up knowing about Brontosaurus—what a great name, ’thunder lizard’—and never did like that it sank into Apatosaurus.”
The SciAm article also notes that this kind of detailed research into the differences between Bronto and Apato bones would not have been possible with 20th century technology, and that the differentiation found between the sets of bones was only found after large advances in paleo-technology from only the past 15 years.
Somewhat ironically, the reclassification of the Brontosaurus may shove the Apatosaurus into the margins, since Apato skeletons must now be re-examined to see if they may actually contain bones that have now been classified as belonging to Brontos.