The poster child of sauropods, the Brontosaurus was a close relative of the Apatosaurus, and for a long time, the two were even considered the same. 

Key Facts

Brontosaurus pronunciationBraan-Tuh-Saw-Ruhs
What does Brontosaurus mean?Thunder lizard
Dinosaur typeSauropod
On the menuHerbivorous
Length22 meters (72 feet)
Height5 meters (16 feet)
Weight17 tons (about 38,000 lbs)
Life expectancy100 years
Legs used to get aroundQuadrupedal
Estimated top speed20-30 km/h (19 mph)
When they livedLate Jurassic era 154 to 145 million years ago
Where they have been found?North America

When & Where

In 1879, the discovery of a sauropod skeleton in eastern Wyoming was announced by Othniel Charles Marsh. He concluded that the skeleton belonged to a new genus and species, giving it the name Brontosaurus excelsus. Marsh was a professor of paleontology at Yale University and during the time of the discovery he and another paleontologist, Edward Drinker Cope, were in the middle of a fossil-collecting rivalry, aptly named “Bone Wars”. Because of this, many details surrounding the Brontosaurus were rushed and imprecise at the time. 

Size & Weight

Being the archetypal sauropod that it is, the Brontosaurus was excessively large. They were approximately 22 meters long from head to tail and weighed up to 17 tons. They were close relatives of the Apatosaurus and the two had similar skeletons and shared most of the same physiological properties.

Mobility & Diet

For a long time, sauropods like the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were considered too large to have been able to support their own body weight. They were thought to have lived mostly submerged in water. Recent findings dispute this and it’s believed that the Brontosaurus was fully terrestrial. They were generally plodding and were able to reach a top speed of 20-30 km/h. Like other sauropods, they were herbivorous.

Interesting Points

  • The confusion surrounding the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus was likely caused by the lack of due diligence in describing fossil records during the so-called “Bone Wars”.
  • The Brontosaurus lived approximately 150 million years ago in North America.
  • The Brontosaurus was pretty much the archetypal sauropod, making them extremely prominent in popular culture.