It’s been more than a century since paleontologists began arguing that the Brontosaurus didn’t exist as a separate category of dinosaur. Now, the thunder lizard is making a comeback.
The 75-foot-long sauropod was named a brontosaurus (“noble thunder lizard”) by paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, LiveScience reports, who discovered its remains in 1879. But another dinosaur expert, Elmer Riggs, determined in 1903 that the animal was not its own species and in fact a type of Apatosaurus (“deceptive lizard”). The brontosaurus name was officially retired from dinosaur taxonomy.
Now, a new study in the journal PeerJ shows that the Brontosaurus was in fact its own genus of dinosaur.
The discovery of fresh dinosaur remains in the last 15 years made the revaluation possible. Researchers from Portugal and the United Kingdom used statistical analysis methods on the new remains to compare hundreds of structural characteristics of the Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus. The differences were substantial enough to give each one a separate genus.
“It’s the classic example of how science works,” said researcher Octávio Mateus, a professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal. “Especially when hypotheses are based on fragmentary fossils, it is possible for new finds to overthrow years of research.”