Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Big Comeback

By the time I'd learned about him -- fascinated, as many elementary school boys seemed to be, by the "Terrible Lizards" called dinosaurs -- he'd been gone for some time. I learned the name "Brontosaurus" from an outdated kids' encyclopedia that didn't tell me my behemoth buddy was actually "Apatosaurus." Even though the change had been around since 1903, it seemed like no one bothered to update folks on the proper name.

The problem was that the fossils that paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh found in 1879 which he called Brontosaurus weren't significantly different from ones he found in 1877 called Apatosaurus. A man named Elmer Riggs discovered this in 1903, and scientific practice is to use the earliest name. This did not dissuade Hanna-Barbera, which had the modern stone-age family of Flintstones dine at Bedrock's Bronto Burger Drive-In rather than "Apato Burger," or others from often using the more muscular and weighty-sounding second name. And who wouldn't take "Thunder Lizard" over "Deceptive Lizard?" Still, the official and correct name of the multi-ton moss muncher remained "Apatosaurus."

Until paleontologist Emanuel Tschopp and his group exhaustively studied the Brontosaurus fossils known to exist and came up with the conclusion that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were in fact different animals. As the story at Scientific American notes, the study must now be investigated to see if it assesses the state of millions-of-years-old bones accurately, but Tschopp and his team actually think there were three separate kinds of Brontosauri, named Brontosaurus excelsus, Brontosaurus parvus and Brontosaurus yahnahpin. Barring some great cataclysm of mistaken data interpretation, we may see the mighty Thunder Lizard restored to the place every six-year-old knows is his due.

Hang in there, Pluto. Your turn will come.


fillyjonk said...

:D I had exactly the same thought about Pluto.

Also, someone needs to rewrite "All About that Bass" so it would work with the line, "I'm bringing Bronto back...."

Friar said...

With Wilma and Betty singing it.