Washington, D. C. is about to get a new resident, a Tyrannosaurus rex (T rex) skeleton, who will “live” at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. T rex is moving from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana and is scheduled to arrive in the nation’s capital city on April 15. It will be on loan by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the next 50 years.
The museum’s fossil hall will close down April 28 to completely redesign the exhibit space. According to museum director Kirk Johnson, the fossil collection will still be visible during the renovation. The Smithsonian’s plans include a 31,000 square-foot dinosaur hall that is to open on the National Mall in 2019.
The Museum of Natural History is not waiting until April 15 to start the new display. While the real T rex skull is preparing for its move to Washington, a cast of it went on display this week. The skeleton was originally scheduled to arrive last fall but got delayed due to the government shutdown.
T rex averaged 40 feet long and 15 to 20 feet tall. While it was not the largest dinosaur to have ever existed, it was certainly a large, predatory meat-eater with a jaw four feet long and a five-foot skull. It lived in North America and became extinct about 65 million years ago. This particular fossil was discovered in 1988 when a rancher, Kathy Wankel, saw something sticking out at the Fort Peck reservoir in Montana. It turned out to be the dinosaur’s arm bones. When a team of paleontologists did further excavating, they discovered the rest of the T rex fossil which was 85 percent complete.
The fossil was taken to Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, 90 minutes away from Yellowstone National Park. The museum is known throughout the world as a dinosaur research facility. The paleontologists who worked with the excavation were led by Dr. Jack Horner, Curator of Paleontology at the museum. Besides curating the dinosaur fossil collection, which is one of the largest in the world, he also served as a scientific advisor for all the Jurassic Park movies.
Preparing the fossil for transport is no small feat. The bones will be packed in 19 separate crates. Transportation will be by truck and should take four days from Bozeman to reach Washington, D. C. Since it was found on federal land at Fort Peck, the T rex skeleton is technically owned by the USACE which is why the loan agreement is between a federal agency and the Smithsonian instead of the two museums.
While in Bozeman, the fossil was displayed in the same position it was found. This is referred to as its “death pose.” Smithsonian officials are not yet sure how they will display it. Their concern for now is for it to arrive safely. Regardless of the pose they choose, one thing is certain: Once T rex moves to Washington, it will be the center of attention and the centerpiece of the new dinosaur hall.
By: Cynthia Collins
Photo credit: T rex death pose – Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT
Museum of the Rockies