Friday, October 04, 2013

APATOSAURUS: The Nexus of Reality and Imagination

an older depiction, without the spinal fringe

When Apatosaurus was first introduced to the public, She immediately captured everyone’s imagination. Once called “Brontosaurus,” Apatosaurus became a familiar Dinosaur to many people, starting with the early animated film, “Gertie the Dinosaur” (1914) which starred an Apatosaurus. From then on, this Dinosaur became a favorite of people. She is now a child’s toy and the logo of the Sinclair Oil Company.
            Apatosaurus changed people’s notions of how Dinosaurs moved. Before her discovery, early paleontologists believed that Dinosaurs walked like modern Lizards. They supposedly spread their legs from side to side, and walked with their bellies close to the ground. Robust Apatosaurus demonstrated that Dinosaurs stood upright on flat-soled feet and walked like Elephants.
            Although Apatosaurus cleared up one Dinosaur mystery, She caused more confusion in other areas of paleontology. When She was first discovered, her fossils were mixed-up with a Mosasaurus, an aquatic Reptile. This created an odd looking Dinosaur. After that was sorted out, paleontologists were still unsure about what She looked like. Skulls of Sauropods, the Family that Apatosaurus belonged to, were lightweight and therefore rarely preserved. When her skeleton was found next to a Camarasaurus, who had an intact skull, scientists thought that his skull was hers. Although the two Dinosaurs were Sauropods, Camarasaurus was a Big-nosed Sauropod, whilst Apatosaurus belonged to the Whip-tailed sub-Family. Only recently did scientists recognize that the skull was not hers.
            During the “Bone Wars” (1877-95), Othniel C. Marsh competed with Edward D. Cope over who discovered and named the most Dinosaurs. In 1877, Marsh found and named Apatosaurus. Two years later, Marsh found bones of what he thought was another Sauropod. He named this new “species,” “Brontosaurus.” In 1905, the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven (US) displayed a copy of “Brontosaurus,” thereby cementing this Dinosaur in the public’s mind. However two years before, another paleontologist Elmer Rigs had proved that the two Dinosaurs were the same. But Apatosaurus continued to be referred to as “Brontosaurus.” In 1989, the U.S. Post Office issued stamps of Dinosaurs featuring “Brontosaurus,” explaining that that is what people called Apatosaurus.
            Living in the Late Jurassic in North America, Apatosaurus was a sturdy Sauropod, with a medium-sized head and neck. Using her pegged teeth, She stripped off leaves from conifers for food. Since She had no good chewing teeth, Apatosaurus swallowed small stones to ground up the leaves for digestion. Unlike early erroneous depictions of Her, Apatosaurus was actually an elegant slender Dinosaur, with spikes on her neck and tail, who held her slim tail out as She walked.
            Apatosaurus lives at the intersection of reality and imagination. The reality is a refined Sauropod who roamed the countryside searching for conifers to eat. The imagination is “Brontosaurus,” the Thunder Lizard,” a stout Dinosaur who shook the ground as He walked. The Nexus holds both, who co-exist in our lives and minds.  Each Dinosaur gives us insight into our reality and thoughts, and guides us through the multiple dimensions of our lives. Follow both into the inner and outer reaches of the Universe, and discover more.

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