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Brontosaurus excelsus skeleton (YPM 1980) in the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven

Brontosaurus excelsus skeleton (YPM 1980) in the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven

Temporal occurrence
Upper Jurassic ( Kimmeridgian to Tithonian )
157.3 to 145 million years
Lizard dinosaur (Saurischia)
Sauropods (Sauropoda)
Scientific name
Marsh , 1879

Brontosaurus (" thunder lizard ", Syn .: Elosaurus Peterson & Gilmore, 1902 , Eobrontosaurus Bakker, 1998 ) is a genus of sauropod dinosaurs from the family Diplodocidae and is one of the most famous dinosaurs . Brontosaurus lived in the Upper Jurassic ( Kimmeridgian to Tithonian ), its fossils were found in layers of the lower and middle Morrison Formation in the western US states of Wyoming and Utah . The genus was long considered a synonym for Apatosaurus and onlybecame a valid taxon againin April 2015 whenthe Diplodocidae was revised .


Brontosaurus is one of the best known sauropods. The very large quadruped animal had a long neck and a long, whip-like tail. It was not as long as the related, similarly built Diplodocus , and with an estimated weight of 30 t, not as heavy as Apatosaurus (35 t). Like all sauropods, it was a herbivore.

The diagnostic features with the help of which the genus Brontosaurus can be distinguished from other Apatosaurinae ( Apatosaurus and a previously undescribed genus, AMNH 460) include the spinous processes on the anterior vertebrae, the base of which is longer than wide, and the morphology of the scapula and Astragalus . A skull has not yet been found.

Reconstruction of a Brontosaurus


Brontosaurus and the type species Brontosaurus excelsus were in 1879 by the American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh described . The basis was a skeleton found at Como Bluff , but the skull was missing. It was believed that Brontosaurus had a short, tall skull, similar to Camarasaurus , whose fossil remains also came from Como Bluff and which was described as early as 1877. The reconstructed skeleton was the first sauropod skeleton to be exhibited in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1903, shortly after Marsh's death, a team at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago examined the skeleton of a large sauropod that was very similar to both Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus and concluded that all three must belong to one genus. Since Apatosaurus was first described, two years before Brontosaurus , that name became the valid one under the priority rule of the International Rules for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In April 2015, Brontosaurus was revalidated in a revision of the Diplodocidae .


In the revision by Tschopp, Mateus and Benson, three Brontosaurus species were recognized.

  • Brontosaurus excelsus Marsh, 1879. ( Syn.Brontosaurus amplus Marsh, 1881 )
  • Brontosaurus parvus ( Peterson & Gilmore, 1902) (originally Elosaurus parvus )
  • Brontosaurus yahnahpin ( Filla & Redman, 1994) (originally Eobrontosaurus yahnahpin )


  • Emanuel Tschopp, Octávio Mateus, Roger BJ Benson: A specimen-level phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision of Diplodocidae (Dinosauria, Sauropoda). PeerJ , 2015; 3: e857 doi: 10.7717 / peerj.857

Web links

Commons : Brontosaurus  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Brontosaurus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations