The fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex, buried for 65 million years, are emerging from the badlands of eastern Montana under the careful digging of a museum work crew.
The digging has uncovered most of an intact skeleton, only the eighth ever found. The remains exposed so far include the skull, tail, pelvis area, arm and back. The lower arm bones are the first ever found for any T-rex.The Tyrannosaurus is perhaps the most fabled of all the dinosaurs because of its size - it was nearly 35 to 40 feet long and up to 12 feet high - and its carnivorous diet. It was the largest carnivore ever to walk the earth.
T-rex teeth were up to 6 inches long. The skull being unearthed is 4 feet long, with eye sockets 4 to 5 inches in diamenter. The socket hole in the pelvis where the leg attached is 10 inches in diameter.
"If you like ferocity . . . ferocious things, the T-rex has got to be at the top of the list," said Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont. "It has a whole mouth full of steak knives, which it almost exclusively used to eat meat."
Horner, head of paleontology at the Montana museum, said the real scientific value of the T-rex skeleton is limited. But, he said, it will be a big drawing card for the museum.
`It will bring people to our museum. It's a real showy thing," Horner said. "Then we'll show them things they might not have driven so far to see, but I think are better."
Horner is known internationally for his discoveries of dinosaur fossils in the northern plains and the Rocky Mountain foothills, as well as his theories on dinosaur behavior.
His work has shown that dinosaurs tended to care for their young, more like birds than like modern-day reptiles. Among the displays at the museum is a dinosaur nest, with fossilized baby dinosaurs just emerging from their fossilized eggs.
The fact that there is only a single T-rex skeleton makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the social behavior of the Tyrannosaurus, Horner said.
Still, he said, the Tyrannosaurus will be studied and a scientific description written.
Just more knowledge about the T-rex would be helpful, according to Nicholas Hotton, a curator of paleontology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The T-rex was first discovered early in this century.
"It was described in a paper three pages long and that's all there is. Nobody has ever described it in detail," Hotton said.
The newly discovered T-rex skeleton still has all the vertebrae from the back and tail fused together.
The skull broke off at the neck but is only several feet away from the neck and back.
Leg bones have been found near the skull and more are expected buried beneath the other bones.