Photography and text by Andrew A. Skolnick
Welcome to My Tribute to Tyrannosaurus Sue
Sculptor Brian Cooley's 1/3 life-size model of what Sue may have looked like when she was alive.
The largest Tyrannosaurus ever discovered, Sue stretches 42 feet (12.8 m) from head to tail and stands 13 feet (4 m) high at the hips. Scientists estimate that she weighed about 14,000 lbs. (6400 kg) when she lived.
It's obvious how Sue got her scientific name, Tyrannosaurus rex -- from the Greek and Latin for "tyrant lizard king."
Sue's huge jaws held 58 teeth up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. About two thirds of each tooth was deeply rooted in the jawbone. The edges of the teeth were sharp as knives and serrated. Unlike mammals, dinosaurs were able to grow new teeth to replace those that were lost or broken. Several new teeth can be seen emerging from Sue's upper and lower jaws.
The steel armature that supports Sue's skeleton can not hold her massive 600 lb. (272 kg) skull -- so she was fitted with a light but accurate casting...
...while Sue's actual 5-foot-long (1.5 m) skull is on display on the museum's second floor.
Scientists who study the evolution of birds and dinosaurs are very excited about finding Sue's boomerang-shaped furcula or wishbone. It's the first one found in a Tyrannosaurus. Wishbones are possessed only by similar meat eating dinosaurs -- and all birds -- which some scientists believe are "modern dinosaurs."
Here is the T-rex at the Smithsonian National Museum
of Natural History in Washington, DC. Not only is the furcula bone
missing, the dinosaur's shoulder bones and arms were placed too closely
as a result.
Sue lived about 67 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. She was discovered August 12, 1990 on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota by fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson. On Oct. 4,1997, the Field Museum purchased the dinosaur at a Sotheby auction for $8.36 million, with financial support from McDonald's Corporation, Walt Disney World Resort, and private individuals.
Sue's remarkably well-preserved "gastralia" are another exciting find. These bones grew under the skin covering the dinosaur's abdomen and/or thorax and are seldom found among fossils. Although rib like, they were not attached to the actual ribs or other bones. As a result, scientists are not sure how they were positioned in life, which is why they are in a display case and not yet attached to Sue. Scientists hope these bones will provide clues as to their position and function. It is thought that they helped to protect the dinosaur's vital organs and may also have helped it breathe. Mammals breathe with the help of a diaphragm. Reptiles and birds are "rib breathers." Dinosaurs probably were too.
"You all come back now, ya hear?"
© 2000 Andrew A. Skolnick - All rights reserved.