Guess who's back? Paleontologists have declared that Brontosaurus is, indeed, a legitimate species separate from Apatosaurus. Stephen J. Gould's stance -- in the widely read essay Bully For Brontosaurus -- has at last been vindicated; the thunder lizard is back!
Apatosaurus literally means "deceptive lizard" due to peculiar bone structure; however, the name applies equally to the history of confusion about Apatosaurus / Brontosaurus taxonomy.
In 1879, Brontosaurus was first named at Yale University; however, in 1903, paleontologist Elmer Riggs declared that Brontosaurus was indistinguishable from Apatosaurus. Since Apatosaurus was the older name, teachers taught legions of schoolchildren to unlearn Brontosaurus and remember the huge sauropod as Apatosaurus. Now, a team of paleontologists has overturned Riggs' decision after 5 years of careful sauropod research which revealed not just one but several distinct species of brontosaurs.
The news media is having a triumphant field day with the return of our beloved Brontosaurus. Imagine the uproar if Pluto became a planet again!
"We're delighted that Brontosaurus is back," says Jacques Gauthier, curator of vertebrate paleontology and vertebrate zoology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, 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."