Starting in the late 1860's, two of the United States of America's most prominent paleontologists, Orthniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, had a falling out. Cope claimed that Marsh had paid quarrymen in New Jersey to divert fossils they found for him to Marsh. Personal attacks between the men, covered up as scientific criticism, followed in articles that they wrote for publication. Later, each would send teams into the fossil fields of the West where they would fight over digging rights amid claims that the other side had destroyed or damaged fossils in order to block their rivals from getting a hold of them.
One outgrowth of these Bone Wars was an unscientific competition between Marsh and Cope to see who could discover the most species of extinct beasts. In their rush to beat each other to the next find, the scientists often based their claims on incomplete or inaccurate data.
One of the most famous dinosaurs that was a victim of these bone wars was the Brontosaurus, a member of a family of dinosaurs that walked on four legs with long necks and long tails called sauropods.
Brontosaurus which means thunder lizard was actually an Apatosaurus (deceptive lizard) fossil skeleton with no skull. Marsh discovered this Apatosaurus specimen in 1879 at Como Bluff, Wyoming. In his haste to discover a new species of dinosaur he went to another quarry and found a skull to put on this specimen. The skull was from a Camarasaurus. The Brontosaurus soon went on to become one of the most famous dinosaur species of all time. A nearly complete skeleton found by Marsh was mounted In Yale's Peabody Museum. There it captured the public's imagination as did a beautiful illustration Marsh published in The Sixteenth Annual Report of the US Geological Survey, 1895. The Yale skeleton was the first sauropod dinosaur put on display anywhere in the world when it was mounted in 1905 and the animal was clearly labeled as a Brontosaurus. Poor Brontosaurus was a casualty of the bones wars because its name has been stricken from museums that once had the Brontosaurus in their exhibit.