Today’s post is a special A to Z Challenge edition of Sciency Words, an ongoing series here on Planet Pailly where we take a look at some interesting science or science related term so we can all expand our scientific vocabularies together. In today’s post, B is for:
I’ll never forget that sad moment in my childhood when I found out that brontosaurus is not a real dinosaur. Someone made a mistake, and we had to call brontosaurus apatosaurus instead.
Here’s a quick rundown of events in the brontosaur/apatosaur naming controversy:
- 1877: A dinosaur skeleton is discovered and given the name scientific name (genus and species) Apatosaurus ajax.
- 1879: Another dinosaur skeleton is discovered and given the name Brontosaurus excelsus.
- 1903: Upon further examination, it’s determined that these two dinosaur specimens are too closely related and should be classified as the same genus. Since the genus Apatosaurus was identified first, Brontosaurus excelsus became Apatosaurus excelsus.
On a personal note, I was stunned to find out all this happened way back in 1903. When I was a kid, I was under the impression that this was a much more recent development.
Anyway, there’s some good news for brontosaurus fans. In 2015, Brontosaurus was reinstated as its own genus. Turns out that while those two skeletons are very similar, there’s enough of a difference in the structure of the neck to justify classifying them separately.
By the way, brontosaurus means “thunder lizard,” because of the sound it must have made when it walked. Apatosaurus apparently means “deceptive lizard.” I’m not sure why they called it that back in 1877, but after this case of attempted identity theft, I’d say the name fits.
Next time on Sciency Words: A to Z Challenge, we’ll head out into space and meet some centaurs.