Revisiting the Bone Wars: Brontosaurus is Back After Being Identified as a Single Genus Again

Over a century ago, paleontologists decided that the Brontosaurus, a species of long-necked dinosaur, was in fact not a species of long-necked dinosaur. But after naming it and unaming it, paleontologists want to rename it brontosaurus again based on new evidence that has recently come to light.


The Classification of Brontosaurus

Brontosaurus were first discovered in 1879 by Othneil Charles Marsh, the famous paleontologist, in Colorado. He claimed that the fossils were different to another species he had earlier named Apatosaurus ajax, latin for ‘deceptive lizard’ in 1877 and thus declared  the discovery as a new genus, Brontosaurus excelsus, latin for ‘thunder lizard’. Marsh was engaged in a rivalry with a fellow paleontologist Edward Cope and both were rushing to discover and name as many undiscovered species as possible.

The Un-classification of Brontosaurus

In 1903, Elmer Riggs, also a paleontologist declared that the two genus’ were too similar to be two, and therefore should be one. The mistake originally occurred because Marsh hadn’t collected a full fossil specimen of Apatosaurus and therefore couldn’t make and informed decision of nomenclature based on this alone. Add on the fact that he found them around the same area and Marsh lost this battle with Cope in  the race to find the most new species.

Because Apatosaurus was named first, Brontosaurus was bid farewell in the paleontology world.


The Re-Classification of Brontosaurus

Since the de-naming incident we have still never forgotten the Brontosaurus and when most people are asked about the various species of diplodocus their mind would jump straight to the famous Brontosaurus. 

This is why we are so glad could be making a comeback as a single genus once more. The team of researchers led by Emanuel Tschopp, a paleontologist from the New University of Lisbon in Portugal have published their 300 page findings in the open source journal peer J yesterday. They analysed 477 different specimens and didn’t just look at Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus genus, they looked at a wide range of diplodocus species. They analysed 500 traits over 5 years and constructed a new family tree of sauropods, declaring Brontosaurus a definitive genus all on its own.

The End of this Bone Battle?

These results mark a major incident in history, that of the bone wars that took place between paleontologists like Marsh and Cope. Marsh lost this battle initially but thanks to this new study, the concept of Brontosaurus as a genus on it’s own again will soon be presented to the International Committee for Zoological Nomenclature to make the final decision but hopefully we will see the comeback of one of our favorite dinosaur species.