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Apatosaurus



Name: Apatosaurus
Pronounciation: a-PAT-oh-SORE-us
Name means: "deceptive reptile"
Length: 70-90 feet (21-27 meters)
Weight: 60,000 pounds (27 metric tons)
Diet: Herbivore
Lived in: Late Jurassic
Discovered by: Othniel C. Marsh
Found in: United States, North America



Apatosaurus
was a giant sauropod discovered by Othniel C. Marsh in 1877. Two years later, Marsh made another sauropod discovery, which he named Brontosaurus (BRONT-oh-SORE-us), meaning "thunder reptile". It was not until later that paleontologists realized that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were actually of the same species. Since Apatosaurus was named first, it became the official name, however, the name Brontosaurus continues to remain popular.

Apatosaurus lived during the late Jurassic Period in what is now the western part of the United States. It was a herd animal that most likely migrated across the country in a constant search for food. Paleontologists once thought that large sauropods like Apatosaurus spent all of their time in the water, but that is no longer believed to be true. This theory came to be probably because Apatosaurus' nostrils were on top of its head, causing paleontologists to believe that the dinosaur could use them as a sort of snorkle. Now the common belief is that Apatosaurus, and other sauropods, lived on land, possibly in praries or savannah-like areas.

The first skeletons of Apatosaurus were found without skulls. Paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh added a skull that was found miles away. This skull was thick and chambered, and it was later discovered to be the skull of Camarasaurus. The early skeletons of Apatosaurus were displayed with the Camarasaurus skulls. In 1915, Earl Douglas discovered an Apatosaurus skeleton, complete with the skull, but it was still dispalyed without it. It was not until 1975 that the correct skull was placed on Apatosaurus.

The real Apatosaurus skull was much different than that of Camarasaurus. While Camarasaurus' skull was tall and had a blunt snout, Apatosaurus' skull was longer and thinner. Its head and brain were tiny for its tremndous size. It had peg-like teeth which it used to snip off soft vegetation and swallow it whole. Apatosaurus and other sauropods swallowed smooth stones to help grind down the plant material in its digestive system. These stones were called gastroliths. They were discovered inside the massive skeletons of sauropods. Apatosaurus had four thick legs, its back legs longer than its forelegs. On either front foot, it had a longer claw, the use of which is still unknown. It might have been used to ward off predators if the dinosaur could rear up on its hind legs. When rearing, it might have used its long, whip-like tail to balance itself. This large animal was so heavy that it probably moved very slowly when it walked. It held its neck parallel to the ground, and paleontologists now believe that it probably could not raise its head any higher than its shoulders.

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