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Tyrannosaurus Rex

Osborn - Discovered 1905

Tyrannosaurus rex, from a family of dinosaurs called tyrannosaurids , was first discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902 in Hell Creek, Montana. Although the skeleton was not complete, about 30%, Henry F. Osborn described it in 1906.  There was also enough of the skeleton to attempt a reconstruction and it is now on display at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.

Tyrannosaurids ranged in size from the 15-foot, 200-pound Nanotyrannus to Tyrannosaurus rex, at 50 feet and 15,000 pounds.  Tyrannosaurus rex lived 136 to 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.  The tyrannosaurids had massive heads, huge bodies, powerful legs, large clawed toes, and serrated teeth. T. rex arms were relatively small yet were very powerful with each hand having two fingers.  Other tyrannosaurids include Albertosaurus, Tarbosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and a few others that are little known. Velociraptor, Troodon, Ornithomimus, and Allosaurus are close cousins.

Tyrannosaurus rex is known to every schoolchild and is one of the last non-avian dinosaurs to walk the earth before the Cretaceous Extinction.  There have been fewer than two-dozen good specimens of these animals found, and the best finds are from areas in western North America.  A listing of Tyrannosaurus rex and other dinosaur exhibits can be found at


  Carnegie Museum Pittsburgh T-Rex in their Sculpture Hall

The most famous is “Sue” which was a nickname given to the most complete, 88 - 90%, of the total skeleton was found intact.  Most of the other T. rex skeletons, including the world famous “Scotty” skeleton range between 40 – 50% (see Scotty link below).  This alone makes Sue an important discovery.


The remains of Sue were found in 1990 by Sue Hendrickson for whom the T. rex is named.  It was in South Dakota, on Maurice Williams Cheyenne River Reservation Ranch that “Sue” was found.  The Black Hills Institute used over 130 crates and boxes when it excavated Sue.

In 1992 a legal dispute erupted into a FBI raid and a lengthy court battle ensued.  The bones were given to Maurice Williams who sold them at Sotheby’s public auction in October 1997.   If you are interested in the actual court proceedings regarding the disposition of Sue the T rex go to where the 1993 opinion of the United States court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit can be found. Currently “Sue” is in the Field Museum, which purchased it with financial support from McDonald's, Disney, the California State University system, and private individuals.  “SUE’s” bones are now on exhibit at The Chicago Field Museum. A CAT scan of Sue's skull can be found at the following web site:


It was believed, until recently, that T. rex was the largest terrestrial carnivore of all time standing fifteen feet high, 40 feet in length, and roughly 6 tons in weight.  On March 10, 2000 the Associated Press (see link below) reported, “Scientists have discovered the bones of what could be largest meat-eating dinosaur ever to walk the Earth - a needle-nosed, razor-toothed beast that may have been more terrifying than even the Tyrannosaurus rex.”  The article also noted, “The discovery of the predators' graveyard challenges the theory that the biggest meat-eaters were loners. It also raises the possibility that they lived and hunted in packs - which would make them even more menacing to their prey.”    

In addition to the above challenge of being the largest Carnivore another T. rex “fact” is a current topic of dispute in paleontology.   The question is whether T-rex (or other Tyrannosauridae in general) were predators or scavengers.  Jack Horner, paleontologist at the Museum of the Rockies maintains that T-rex could not have been a predator. His proofs against predation claim the eyes were too small to see prey, arms were too small to hold prey, while oversized legs resulted in slow speed. In fact claims Horner, there is no evidence for predation.  For example, no bones showing tyrannosaur tooth marks that had healed in its prey have ever been found.  With this type of T. rex evidence missing the predator/scavenger debate rages on. The current belief among most paleontologists is that the large predators, such as T-rex were 'opportunistic feeders' meaning they would hunt for food when hungry but not pass up an easy meal of a carcass of a recently deceased dinosaur.                                                                        

What we do know for sure is that T-rex was lizard-hipped and lived during the late Cretaceous period.  It had a muscular neck with a huge jaw filled with teeth 6 inches long that was ideal for tearing and holding prey.  These teeth were serrated like steak knives and were curved back into the jaw making escape from this deadly bite virtually impossible for any unfortunate prey. Fossils of the Tyrannosaurus have been found in North America and Asia.

Text by:  Louis,  Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania


Research Links:

Sue at The Field Museum - learn all about the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex, and how its skeleton is being prepared for display. Includes web cam

Scotty: the Tyrannosaurus Rex at East end, Saskatchewan

What Killed The Dinosaurs? – Cretaceous Extinction 

T. rex on Trial:  Examining the Evidence for Meat-eating Dinosaurs

Tyrannosaurus Rex - Was it a predator or a pussycat?

Start your search on Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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