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The thunder lizard that never existed

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Othniel Marsh, one of the founding fathers of paleontology, was active in the late 1800s in finding, gathering, and naming many of the dinosaurs that we know and have in natural history museums today. Marsh competed against paleontologist Cope on who would find the most fossils. This competition led into the battle called the "bone wars".

Because of this Marsh achieved a bit of infamy for placing the wrong head (Skull) on a dinosaur, that of course, being the famous Brontosaurus. The skeleton that was missing a skull came from one quarry, while the skull came from a different dinosaur from a different quarry. Once the correction was made and the correct head was placed on the correct skeleton, the Brontosaurus ceased to exist and the creature was renamed the Apatosaurus.

The story of Brontosaurus begins when Marsh went out west and befriended the Sioux Indians and used them as guides to earn him a Sioux name, "Wicasa Pahi Hohu" which means "man that picks up bones". The Sioux told Marsh a number of particular stories about creatures that they called "thunder beast". When Marsh found the remains of this creature he named it to honor the Sioux tribe. The skeleton was actually that of an Apatosaurus. But Marsh decided to name it Brontosaurus which means "thunder lizard", when he put the wrong skull that was actually a Camarasaurus type skull.

Poor thunder lizard, Brontosaurus has been put to rest and can no longer be found in natural history museums. The dinosaur Apatosaurus which means "deceptive lizard" is what you will see today. Appropriate name for this dinosaur.

For over one hundred years after Brontosaurus was discovered in 1875, it was used in movies, books and even put on a U.S. Postal Service stamp. An oil company name Sinclair Oil even used Brontosaurus as their symbol. Poor Brontosaurus is just a memory now, that was a casualty of the so-called "bone wars".