Exploring the Scientific Differences: What is the Difference Between an Apatosaurus and a Brontosaurus?

When you think of the largest creatures that once roamed the earth, your mind likely jumps to dinosaurs. Specifically, you may imagine the enormous, long-necked creatures commonly known as apatosauruses or brontosauruses. But what’s the difference between these two behemoths? Despite popular belief, apatosauruses and brontosauruses aren’t the same species at all. In fact, there are some pretty distinct differences that set them apart from one another.

For starters, the apatosaurus is actually the younger of the two species. That’s right—these creatures actually roamed the earth millions of years after brontosauruses made their appearance. Furthermore, the two varieties differ greatly in their bone structures. If you look at an apatosaurus’s vertebrae, you’ll notice they’re more elongated and hollow than the ones found in brontosauruses. This is likely due to differences in how these creatures’ necks were used to gather food.

Despite these differences, it’s common to use the terms “apatosaurs” and “brontosauruses” interchangeably. However, if you’re a true dinosaur enthusiast, it’s important to understand the unique characteristics that separate these two ancient species. Whether you’re a science buff or simply curious about the natural world, learning about the differences between apatosauruses and brontosauruses can offer fascinating insight into our planet’s prehistoric past.

Apatosaurus Physical Characteristics

The Apatosaurus, also known as Brontosaurus, was a massive dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago. Here are some of the key physical characteristics of the Apatosaurus:

  • The Apatosaurus was an incredibly large dinosaur, with adults reaching up to 70 feet long and weighing as much as 30 tons.
  • They had a long, whip-like tail that they could use to defend themselves or help them move through dense vegetation.
  • Their legs were thick and robust, allowing them to support their massive weight and move slowly across the landscape.
  • Apatosaurus had a long, narrow neck that helped them reach vegetation high off the ground.
  • Their skulls were small in comparison to their overall body size and had tiny teeth that they used to grind up tough plant material.
  • They had a single large claw on each hand that they likely used for defense.

Overall, the Apatosaurus was a massive and impressive dinosaur that would have been a sight to see in person!

Brontosaurus Physical Characteristics

When it comes to famous dinosaurs, the Brontosaurus, or “thunder lizard,” is often at the top of the list. Despite its fame, there is still plenty to learn about this massive beast. Let’s start with its physical characteristics.

  • The Brontosaurus was a large herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Jurassic period, approximately 150-140 million years ago.
  • It was one of the largest land animals to ever exist, with some estimates placing its length at over 80 feet and weight at around 38 tons.
  • The Brontosaurus had a long, slender neck that measured around 30 feet in length. This distinctive feature helped it reach high into trees for food.
  • Its head was small relative to its body, and it had nostrils on the top of its head that allowed it to breathe while largely submerged in water.
  • The Brontosaurus had a long, whip-like tail which it likely used to deter predators or defend itself.

But when it comes to the Brontosaurus, one physical characteristic that is the subject of debate is its actual existence. For decades, scientists believed that the Brontosaurus was actually a misidentified species of another dinosaur called the Apatosaurus. However, recent research has suggested that the Brontosaurus may have been a distinct genus of dinosaur after all.

So while there is still more to uncover about the Brontosaurus, one thing is certain: its physical characteristics made it an impressive and powerful creature during its time on Earth.

Take a look at the table below for a quick overview of some key physical characteristics:

Characteristic Description
Size Over 80 feet in length, weighing around 38 tons
Neck Approximately 30 feet long
Head Small relative to body, with nostrils on top
Tail Long and whip-like, likely used for defense

Overall, the Brontosaurus was a massive and fascinating dinosaur, and its physical characteristics continue to intrigue scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike.

Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus Geographic Distribution

When it comes to discussing the geographic distribution of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus, it is important to note that these two dinosaur species lived during the Late Jurassic Period, approximately 150 million years ago. Despite their similar appearance and classification as sauropods, their geographic distribution differs greatly.

  • Apatosaurus fossils have been mostly found in North America, specifically in the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. A few Apatosaurus fossils have also been found in South America, specifically in Argentina.
  • Brontosaurus fossils, on the other hand, have been primarily found in North America, specifically in parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

It is important to note that the geographic distribution of these dinosaur species may have been affected by the shifting of the continents over millions of years and the changing climate during the Late Jurassic Period.


Despite their similarities, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus have distinct differences in their physical characteristics and geographic distribution. By understanding these differences, we can gain a better understanding of their evolution and the ecosystem they lived in millions of years ago.

Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus Dietary Habits

Both Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were herbivorous and consumed a variety of plants. Their diet consisted of leaves, ferns, and bark from trees. However, there were some differences in their feeding habits.

  • Apatosaurus: Apatosaurus was a browser and selectively fed on certain plants. They had a unique dental arrangement that helped them to cut and grind their food efficiently.
  • Brontosaurus: Brontosaurus, on the other hand, was a grazer and consumed a large quantity of low vegetation. Their teeth were less specialized, which indicates that they were not as picky about what they ate.

The difference in their feeding habits is also reflected in their skull structure. Apatosaurus had a deep, narrow skull, while Brontosaurus had a broader, flatter skull. This suggests that Apatosaurus had a more specific feeding behavior, while Brontosaurus had a more generalist diet.

It is also worth noting that the size and volume of their guts were enormous, indicating that they needed to consume vast quantities of food to sustain their massive bodies. Based on studies of their teeth and bone isotopes, it is estimated that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus consumed around 440-880 pounds of plant material per day!

Feature Apatosaurus Brontosaurus
Dental arrangement specialized for cutting and grinding less specialized
Skull structure deep, narrow broader, flatter
Feeding behavior browsing grazing
Diet selective generalist

In conclusion, both Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were massive herbivores with different dietary habits. While Apatosaurus was a browser and selectively consumed certain plants, Brontosaurus was a grazer and consumed a large quantity of low vegetation. Their unique dental arrangement and skull structure were reflective of their specific feeding behavior. However, despite these differences, both animals had massive guts, indicating that they needed to consume a vast amount of food to sustain their enormous bodies.

Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus Fossil Records

The fossil records of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus have fascinated paleontologists for many years. Both dinosaurs belong to the same family, but they have some slight differences that make them distinct from each other. Fossil records help us to understand the lives and times of these magnificent creatures and how they evolved over millions of years.

The first discovery of Apatosaurus fossils was made by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1877 in Colorado, USA. The species was originally named Brontosaurus, but in 1903, it was reclassified as Apatosaurus due to some differences in the skeletal structure. The Brontosaurus name remained popular in public imagination, though, and it was not until 2015 that the name Brontosaurus was reinstated as a separate species.

  • Apatosaurus has a longer tail than Brontosaurus.
  • The skull of Apatosaurus is longer and more rectangular than that of Brontosaurus.
  • Brontosaurus is thought to have had a slightly shorter neck and more robust legs than Apatosaurus.

Both Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were herbivores, grazing on plants that grew during the Late Jurassic period. Fossilized stomach contents show that Apatosaurus had a small head and narrow throat, indicating that it preferred to eat low-growing vegetation. In contrast, Brontosaurus had a larger head and a wider gullet, suggesting that it could also eat taller vegetation.

Researchers have found fossils of both Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus in North America, dating back around 150 million years. The fossils are mostly from the Morrison Formation, a geological formation that stretches across several states, including Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The Morrison Formation is famous for its diverse collection of dinosaur fossils, including some of the largest and most famous species, such as Allosaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus.

Fossil Records of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus Discovery Date and Location
Apatosaurus ajax 1877, Colorado, USA
Apatosaurus louisae 1908, Wyoming, USA
Brontosaurus excelsus 1879, Colorado, USA
Brontosaurus yahnahpin 1904, Wyoming, USA

The fossil records of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus continue to reveal new information about these fascinating creatures. With the help of modern technology, paleontologists can study the fossilized bones in detail, providing insight into their anatomy, behavior, and evolution. The fossils also serve as a reminder of the long history of our planet and the many different forms of life that have existed over millions of years.

Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus Taxonomy

The Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus taxonomy is a fascinating topic for those interested in evolutionary science. Taxonomy is the classification of living organisms into groups based on their physical and genetic characteristics.

  • The Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus belong to the family Diplodocidae, which is a group of long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs that lived during the Late Jurassic period.
  • Originally, the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were believed to be separate species, but in 1903 it was discovered that the Brontosaurus was actually a juvenile Apatosaurus.
  • The Apatosaurus was later renamed to Brontosaurus in 1905, but further research in 2015 suggested that the two dinosaurs should be separated again due to differences in their skeletal structure and other characteristics.

The difference in classification between the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus lies in their physical characteristics. The Brontosaurus is characterized by its shorter neck, more robust body, and larger skull compared to the Apatosaurus. The Apatosaurus, on the other hand, has a longer, more slender neck and a smaller skull.

Recent research has also shown that there are additional differences between the two dinosaurs. For instance, the shape of their vertebrae and the position of their shoulder blades differ, which suggests that they may have had different ranges of motion and lifestyles. Additionally, it has been suggested that the two dinosaurs may have existed in different regions or habitats, which may have contributed to the differences in their characteristics.

Apatosaurus Brontosaurus
Longer, more slender neck Shorter neck
Smaller skull Larger skull
More flexible Less flexible

The Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus taxonomy is an evolving field as new discoveries are made and more research is conducted. However, the classification of these two dinosaurs serves as an example of the complexities of taxonomy and the importance of understanding the physical and genetic characteristics of living organisms.

Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus Extinction Theories

The extinction of the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus has long been a topic of fascination and debate among scientists and paleontologists. Here are some of the most widely accepted theories about their demise:

  • Climate Change: A popular theory suggests that a major shift in climate conditions, particularly a change in temperature and precipitation, led to the extinction of the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus. This theory is supported by evidence of a significant cooling trend during the end of the Jurassic period, which coincides with the fossils of these massive herbivores.
  • Habitat Loss and Fragmentation: Another possible contributing factor to their extinction is the fragmentation and loss of their habitats due to tectonic activity, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters. As their habitats became more fragmented, it became more difficult for these dinosaurs to find enough food and water to sustain their massive bodies.
  • Competition and Predation: Some scientists believe that competition with other herbivorous species or predation by carnivorous dinosaurs, such as the Allosaurus, may have played a significant role in the extinction of the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus. Both of these possibilities suggest that these large herbivores were struggling to keep up with the changing ecological landscape, making them more vulnerable to extinction.

While we may never know exactly what caused the extinction of the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus, what is certain is that they left an indelible mark on our planet and continue to captivate our imaginations to this day.

To further understand the extinction of the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus, we can take a closer look at the geological and climatic conditions during that period. The end of the Jurassic period was marked by increased volcanic activity, which led to a notable cooling trend on the planet. This shift in climate conditions likely had a significant impact on the plants and animals in the ecosystems of these massive herbivores.

Possible causes of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus extinction Evidence supporting the theory
Climate change • Cooling trend during the end of the Jurassic period

• Evidence of changing precipitation patterns
Habitat loss and fragmentation • Tectonic activity and volcanic eruptions led to fragmentation and loss of habitats
Competition and predation • Competition with other herbivores or predation by carnivorous dinosaurs may have contributed to their decline

Regardless of the cause of their extinction, the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus are still fascinating creatures that continue to capture our imaginations even millions of years after their disappearance from the Earth.

FAQs: What’s the Difference Between an Apatosaurus and a Brontosaurus?

1. Aren’t they the same dinosaur?

No, they are not the same. In fact, the brontosaurus never actually existed. The name was mistakenly given to some fossils of an apatosaurus in the late 1800s.

2. What are the physical differences between them?

Apatosaurus had a more slender neck and tail, while brontosaurus had a thicker neck and tail. Additionally, the bones in the hips and legs of apatosaurus were more slender and lighter compared to brontosaurus.

3. How were they different in behavior?

As far as we can tell, they were probably fairly similar in behavior. Both were herbivores that likely spent most of their time grazing on plants.

4. Is there any difference in their habitat?

Not really. Both apatosaurus and brontosaurus are thought to have existed in similar environments. They lived during the late Jurassic period, around 150 million years ago, in what is now North America.

5. Which one is the more famous dinosaur?

Although it was mistakenly given the name “brontosaurus,” that name has stuck in the public imagination for over a century. So, in terms of being well-known, brontosaurus takes the prize.

Closing Thoughts on Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus

Thanks for reading! We hope we’ve cleared up any confusion about these fascinating creatures. While apatosaurus and brontosaurus are not the same dinosaur, they are closely related and share many similarities. Their size alone is awe-inspiring, and it’s no wonder they capture our imaginations even to this day. Remember, if you ever have questions about the natural world, feel free to stop by again. We’re always happy to help!