Basic Dinosaur Facts: The Thunder Lizard

By Sydney Morgan

from Giphy

Although the dinosaurs have been extinct for a long time, it is always fun to learn about these massive creatures. One of the favorites is the Brontosaurus, also known as the thunder lizard. 

The Biggest Dinosaurs

This creature is a member of the sauropod subgroup because of its four-legged stance, long neck and long tail. Interestingly the length of both the neck and tail counterbalanced each other. It has also been suggested that this regulated the dinosaur’s blood pressure. 

The thunder lizard’s head was small in proportion to its body, and according to paleontologists, its brain was tiny, making it the dumbest dinosaur of all species. While it may have had a small brain, it was the largest creature to ever roam planet Earth.  

Why Is It Called Thunder Lizard?

When we say large, we mean 90 feet in length from head to tail end. That is equivalent to two and a half telephone poles stacked together, or one and nine-tenths the length of a semi-trailer truck. It was also 15 feet tall. Compare that to a foot taller than the female giraffe, which on average stands at 14 feet tall. It is approximated that the thunder lizard weighed 50,000 pounds. An animal of that size must have shaken the earth with every step, hence the name thunder lizard. Perhaps another representation of “thunder” was its supposed defense mechanism. The Brontosaurus likely used its enormous tail to warn natural predators, by cracking it like a whip. It was a slow moving creature and the tail is thought to have been its only form of self-defense.  

Where Did It Live?

Scientists speculate that because of its short sturdy legs, the thunder lizard may have lived in shallow bodies of water, which would have helped support the body weight. However, it did roam the land for food. Being an herbivore, it consumed vegetation only. And when you consider its size, it undoubtedly ate a lot of plants. However, it did not chew its food, so the theory is that it possibly had stones, or gastroliths in the stomach to help digest the food.  Fossils of this dinosaur have been found in the Western states of North America including Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. 

What About It’s Babies?

Being a reptilian species, the Brontosaurus would have laid eggs, which were probably about 12 inches long. The adolescent Brontosaurus, also known as the Apatosaurus, reached full size within the first ten years of life and the presumed lifespan of the thunder lizard is around 100 years.

Fun Facts

  • The Brontosaurus existed during the Jurassic Period, which was 150 million years ago.

  • Othniel Charles Marsh made the first fossil discovery of the species in the state of Wyoming, during the 1870s. 

  • Marsh, the discoverer, also gave the dinosaur the name of Brontosaurus, which in the Greek language means Thunder Lizard. 

  • For many years, the Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were thought to be two different sauropod species. However in 1903, a paleontologist discovered that the Apatosaurus was merely the younger Brontosaurus.

  • The Flintstones cartoon, which originated in the 1960s, had a pet dinosaur named Dino that was representative of the Brontosaurus.

The Brontosaurus, aka, Thunder Lizard was one of the most docile of all dinosaur species and in the movies is often portrayed as the gentle giant.