Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) in Bozeman, Montana, has unveiled a new, permanent Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit, "The Tyrant Kings". All the skeletons in the exhibit came from some region of Montana.

MOR has the largest dinosaur collection in the United States, far outstripping the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The centerpiece of "The Tyrant Kings" is a 12-foot-tall, 40-foot-long fossilized skeleton named Montana's T. Rex. Discovered on federal land by University of Notre Dame and University of Louisiana researchers in 1997 near Fort Peck Dam in McCone County, Montana, and owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the fossil was originally named Peck's Rex. The Corps turned the fossil over to the Museum of the Rockies on mega-long-term loan, and the MOR renamed the dinosaur in honor of its importance to the people of Montana.

More than 60 percent of Montana's T. Rex is actual fossil (the rest consists of casts from other skeletions), and is the most completely mounted T. Rex skeleton in the world. It has all of its belly ribs and a newly discovered third finger. It also is the only T. Rex skeleton to have been found with floating ribs in its abdominal cavity. Montana's T. Rex is supported by a steel structure designed by Research Casting International. The steel cradles the bone, rather than drills into it, to ensure the precious fossil is never damaged.

MOR previously displayed a T. Rex known as "Big Mike", but the Corps ask MOR to give up that skeleton in 2014 so that it could go to the Smithsonian Institution -- which had no fossil T. Rex of its own, just casts.

"The Tyrant Kings" exhibit also includes a series of six skulls from MOR’s collection that presents the growth of T. Rex. At hatching, a T. Rex was about 16 to 18 inches long. They grew swiftly, and reached 9 or 10 feet in the first year. A T. Rex reached adulthood at age 16. During this time, its flatter infant teeth matured into thick, round, serrated teeth capable of snapping through bone. Teeth were replaced every two years.

The youngest T. Rex skull on display is nick-named "Chomper". Chomper is just a year old, is 13.5 inches long, and has rows of spiky, blade-shaped teeth. The second skull, known as "Jane", is a juvenile T. Rex about 8 or 9 years old. "B-Rex", the third skull in the growth series, is an adolescent T. Rex about 14 or 15 years old. The fourth skull is another teenage T. Rex. The fifth skull is a cast of the Wankel T. Rex given to the Smithsonian last year, and represents an adult about 18 to 20 years old. (Montana's T. Rex is about the same age.) The final skull in the series is the "Custer T. Rex" -- the largest T. Rex skull ever discovered (it measures nearly 5 feet in length).

The exhibit also showcases a triceratops spine with T. Rex bite marks.

The exhibit opened on April 10, 2015. Guests at the unveiling included member of the Museum of the Rockies; Montana Lt. Governor Angela McLean; Major General Richard L. Stevens, Deputy Chief of Engineers/Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; MSU President Waded Cruzado; MOR Executive Director Sheldon McKamey; and MOR Curator of Paleontology Jack Horner.

The exhibit opened to the public on April 11, 2015.

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