Smithsonian acquires T. rex skeleton for dinosaur hall
WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is acquiring its first full Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton for eventual display in a new dinosaur hall planned for the museum on the National Mall.
The museum announced on Thursday that it reached a 50-year loan agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to display one of the most complete T. rex specimens ever discovered. It's known as the “Wankel T. rex.”
The rare fossil was found in 1988 by rancher Kathy Wankel on federal land near the Fort Peck Reservoir in eastern Montana. Between 1990 and 2011, the fossil was loaned to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont.
The T. rex will be the centerpiece of a dinosaur hall scheduled to open in 2019. Only a few museums display such nearly complete skeletons, most notably in New York City, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Chicago. But the Smithsonian has long wanted a T. Rex of its own for the natural history museum, which draws more than 7 million visitors each year.
Museum Director Kirk Johnson, a paleontologist, said the world's largest natural history museum and the world's most famous dinosaur are finally coming together.
“It's sort of a match made in heaven,” he said. “It needed to be done a long time ago. We've done it now.”
T. rex was one of the largest meat-eating animals to ever live on land. It weighed more than 5 tons and reached 40 feet in length.
The dinosaur roamed across much of western North America between 66 million and 68 million years ago. Most fossils have been discovered in Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming and in Canada.
But Smithsonian field crews have never worked in those areas to dig to find a T. rex, Johnson said.
“It's a rare animal,” Johnson said. “Think about this: T. rex is sort of the most iconic of all dinosaurs, and to have a real one is like having the Hope Diamond.”
The diamond and the new dinosaur specimen will likely be the must-see attractions at the museum in the future, he said. Previously, the Smithsonian only had plastic and plaster reproductions of a T. rex.
The Smithsonian is planning a temporary exhibition about the world of the T. rex next year before the permanent exhibit opens. This summer, the museum is sending a team to North Dakota to collect fossils of other plants and animals that lived at the time of the T. rex, Johnson said, “to flesh out that world and bring that world back for our visitors.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- High court will take case on gun ownership
- Earth heads for record 2014
- Edible pot ban proposed, yanked in Colorado
- Crying suspect trapped in Calif. chimney, saved but arrested
- GOP governors don’t see ‘Obamacare’ going away
- Officials: 500M financial records hacked
- News Alert
- EPA hopes grants will reduce Lake Erie algae
- Over 3 years, extended federal leave adds up to $775M
- Navy civilian goes on trial for diverting $2M to brother of his boss
- Congress examines NSA official’s part-time job