Dinosaur - Apatosaurus (ah-PAT-oh-sawr-us)
If you thought that Fred Flinstone's fave pet dino, "Dino," was a brontosaurus, we're sorry - you're wrong. The type of plant-eating dinosaur with the long, skinny neck and tiny head everyone has been calling a brontosaurus for years never really existed! Don't worry - your teachers and the books you read in school weren't intentionally lying to you. It's just that incorrect information has a way of getting around. Well, we're about to set the record straight.
Brontosaurus: The Myth Begins
The bones that were put together to construct the brontosaurus actually came from more than one dinosaur. The man who "found" the bones actually came across the body of an apatosaurus, except the head was missing. He used the head of the closest dino he could find, which actually belonged to a camarasaurus, to complete the skeleton. He put the fossils together and named the "new" dino "brontosaurus."
Brontosaurus: The Mistake is Uncovered
Almost 100 years passed before the error was discovered. Because the body was that of an apatosaurus and it was discovered first, the name "brontosaurus" was dropped. There never really was a dino that looked like a brontosaurus. In fact, the name was dropped way back in the 1970s, but for whatever reason brontosaurus is still a familiar name.
Apatosaurus: Will the Real Brontosaurus Please Stand Up?
Apatosaurus was one of the largest animals that ever lived. Some people believe the earth shook when this dino walked. It could grow to over 85 feet long and over 15 feet tall at the hips. Apatosaurus is known for its very long neck, which made it easier to eat greens from trees. They also had big feet: yard-long footprints (called trackways) from this big guy have been found in Colorado. It had a small head along with a small mouth and probably spent most of its time eating to get enough nutrients from plants to stay alive.
The apatosaurus also had huge, elephant-like legs and a long whiplike tail that may have been used as a defense against large predators. It also had a sharp claw on each thumb that may have deterred attackers. Possibly traveling in herds, these dinosaurs had to eat a lot of food to keep their massive bodies going. They may have swallowed plant matter whole and ground it up with a gizzard, like birds do today.