If you’re into dinosaurs. you probably know that the Brontosaurus does not officially exist. At some point in time, it was decided that skeletons labeled brontosaurs were really skeletons of apatosaurs.
You likely weren’t told this debacle happened all the way back in 1903 in the wake of the Great Bone Wars (which is totally an accepted historical term).
Now, brontosaurus is back in the news as a scientific paper suggests that brontosaurus really is a separate species. Studies of these type of dinosaurs have been greatly assisted by modern technology, allowing scientists to compare specimens form all over the world without having to have the physical objects in front of them.
Not only are these scientists saying brontosaur is a distinct species, they’re also saying it should be its own genus, which further separates it from its evolutionary cousin.
Articles keep comparing this news to hopes that Pluto will once again become a planet. One of the big problems here is how “official” decisions are made in the two fields. In the case of Pluto, the decision to demote it came from the International Astronomical Union, an organization understood to have the authority to classify celestial bodies.
Paleontologists have no such equivalent. Making something “official” is much more about getting general consensus on a fact, which hasn’t yet happened. This idea has simply been put forth in a paper.
Image credit:“Louisae” by Tadek Kurpaski from London, Poland – sauropodUploaded by FunkMonk. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.