Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus: Is There a Difference?

Written by August Buck
Updated: March 3, 2022
Image Credit Daniel Eskridge/Shutterstock.com
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When it comes to dinosaurs, there is still so much for us to learn, including the differences between apatosaurus vs brontosaurus. While the debate over whether or not these two creatures are related still continues, there is scientific evidence to suggest that these are two different dinosaur species rather than the same one. But how can you tell?

In this article, we will discuss the differences between apatosaurus and brontosaurus, even if those differences are subtle. We will also discuss the hotly contested debate surrounding the genus and species of these two dinosaurs, centuries after their existence. Let’s get started.

Comparing Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus

apatosaurus vs brontosaurus
There is enough evidence to suggest that apatosaurus were far larger than brontosaurus, and their skull shapes likely differed from one another.

A-Z-Animals.com

ApatosaurusBrontosaurus
SizeHuge compared to BrontosaurusSmaller than Apatosaurus
AppearanceOver 25-50 tons; larger and lower set neck and stocky legsSmaller than apatosaurus with long neck; different skull shape from apatosaurus
Location FoundNorth AmericaNorth America
EraLate Jurassic PeriodLate Jurassic Period
Genus or SpeciesApatosaurus excelsusBrontosaurus excelsus

Key Differences Between Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus

There are only so many differences between apatosaurus vs brontosaurus which is why the debate over whether or not they are different species continues. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that apatosaurus were far larger than brontosaurus, and their skull shapes differed from one another. However, these dinosaurs existed during the same era and fossils for both were found in the same locations in North America, so it is difficult to say for certain.

Let’s discuss some of these possible differences in more detail so that you can make your own informed decision.

apatosaurus vs brontosaurus
It is estimated that apatosaurus often exceeded 25 tons in weight, while brontosaurus weighed closer to 15 tons.

iStock.com/Aunt_Spray

Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus: Locations Found and Era Alive

Both apatosaurus vs brontosaurus existed in the late Jurassic era, roughly 145-200 million years ago. However, many scientists believe that brontosaurus were extinct by the end of the Jurassic period, making their time on earth relatively short when compared to apatosaurus. Given an overall lack of research and information, there is no guarantee that this is even true.

Both apatosaurus and brontosaurus were discovered in North America, which suggests that these two dinosaurs may have existed in the same environments and areas. Again, given a lack of fossil records and information, it is difficult to confirm this fact.

Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus: Size

A potential difference between apatosaurus vs brontosaurus is their overall size. Apatosaurus were theoretically larger than brontosaurus, by a great deal. It is estimated that apatosaurus often exceeded 25 tons in weight, while brontosaurus weighed closer to 15 tons. This also indicates that the overall body mass of apatosaurus far outweighed that of the brontosaurus.

apatosaurus vs brontosaurus
Brontosaurus appear to have thinner and longer tails when compared to apatosaurus.

Daniel Eskridge/Shutterstock.com

Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus: Physical Appearance

There are some potential physical differences between apatosaurus vs brontosaurus. We have already discussed that apatosaurus are larger than brontosaurus, but there are some other physical differences as well. One of the main differences that could be obvious but one we don’t know is the skull shape of these two dinosaurs. This is because a brontosaurus skull has never been properly discovered or found.

However, besides this, brontosaurus appear to have thinner and longer tails when compared to apatosaurus. The ribs of brontosaurus may have also been larger and taller than that of the Apatosaurus, leading to a larger barrel chest. Both dinosaurs have spines along their backs, and extremely long necks that scientists are still baffled by.

The overall size of both of these dinosaurs confuses scientists and researchers to this day. Many discoveries have indicated that both apatosaurus and brontosaurus bones are full of holes in order to lighten the load on their bodies. However, given the large size of apatosaurus, it is suggested that they spend the majority of their lives in the water in order to lend some buoyancy to their bodies. Brontosaurus existed primarily on land, which is another key difference between these two creatures. 

apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus
Apatosaurus were theoretically larger than brontosaurus, by a great deal.

iStock.com/dottedhippo

Apatosaurus vs Brontosaurus: The Genus Debate

While this is less of a difference and more of a debate, recent studies have suggested that apatosaurus and brontosaurus are indeed different species rather than the same animal that has simply been renamed. Let’s talk more about the history of these dinosaurs now. 

When apatosaurus were first discovered, they were discovered alongside multiple different specimens and fossils. The classification of the apatosaurus and brontosaurus species began back in the early 1900s, and scientists decided back then both apatosaurus and brontosaurus were dinosaurs of the same species. However, as technology has progressed and more research has been proven, this may not be the case any longer.

A study performed in 2015 suggests that brontosaurus are different enough from apatosaurus to Merit their own species classification. Furthermore, both apatosaurus and brontosaurus have three different subspecies classifications under their species umbrella. While there is still far more research to be done and many paleontologists disagree whether or not they are indeed separate creatures, the debate continues. It is a fascinating thing to witness in modern times, And hopefully both apatosaurus and brontosaurus received the recognition they deserve!

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