February 13, 2004

Brontosaurus mysterious

I may be the last reasonably well educated person on the planet to discover this, but did you know the Brontosaurus never existed? Apparently the big skeleton I used to gaze at in a kind of "wow, big!" way at the Museum of Natural History in New York was an inadvertent fake. A paleontologist found the body of an Apatosaurus but no head. Looked around the vicinity, found a head, stuck it on. Much, much later people figured out, well, no, that's not the right head. It belongs to this other dino dude, the Camarasaurus. But in the meantime, at least three museums had done the same thing, stuck one animal's head on another animal's body and displayed it proudly in their central hall. The mistake has since been rectified. Twenty years ago or thereabouts, they switched the heads around and fixed the labels and now the Apatosaur has an appropriately small, narrow head instead of the flat, wide one I remember.

I don't know why I find this amusing. Maybe because it seems like we're light years past finding dinosaur bones and imagining fire breathing dragons and then whoa, we're really not. We know so little that we stick a random head on a body and call it a beast it never was and stand tall in our incomprehension.

Alas, poor Brontosaur. I knew ye well. Or thought I did.

Posted by Tamar at February 13, 2004 11:15 PM