STL Science Center

STL Science Center

11 April 2015

Thundering Lizards

Above, awesomeness. Below, Charles Knight's interpretation of what was at the time (1897) Brontosaurus excelsus. Six years later the dinosaur was lumped together with Apatosaurus and became A. excelsus. The Knight version is very similar to the Zallinger mural piece and they probably borrowed from one another extensively and spoke to the same paleontologists. The interpretations of pretty much all sauropods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries depicted highly aquatic swamp dwelling creatures that dragged their tails whenever they left the water. Acting like large reptilian hippopotami, the herbivores were thought to be slow and pondering in and out of the water. This anachronistic version of Brontosaurus has not been completely erased from the popular psyche, but it is becoming less widespread. This is both good and bad because the history of the science and art is very interesting but it does portray the animal incorrectly.

©Charles R. Knight

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