When scientists excavated a fossilized T. rex skeleton in Eastern Montana in 1988, it was the first time they confirmed some of the dinosaur’s teeth were longer than its own forearm.
That same T. rex has moved from the Museum of the Rockies to a new home in Washington, D.C. at the National Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which has been working on the exhibit for five years in the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils. Today is the T. rex’s grand opening.
The Museum of the Rockies will have dinosaur-shaped cookies and lemonade, and guests can speak with paleontology collections manager Amy Atwater at 1 p.m to celebrate. The event will also include casts of the T. rex so people can see and feel its giant, serrated teeth.
Atwater said the size and completeness of the so-called “Nation’s T. rex” made it a rare find.
“For something to be 66 million years old, and to be that big, is unheard of,” Atwater said.
When the “Nation’s T.rex” was showcased in Bozeman, it was placed on its side and appeared as it had been found. The Smithsonian took a different approach.
In the new exhibit, the dinosaur is posed leaning over a triceratops, chomping into its head.
“It’s very metal. Granted we are talking about bones and skulls so it’s all pretty metal,” Atwood said.
Scientists haven’t agreed on whether the T. rex was a predator or scavenger. Atwood said she encourages young people interested in dinosaurs to study paleontology and research questions like this one.
The fossil is also known as the “Wankel T. rex,” named for the family who found it near the Fort Peck Reservoir on a family camping trip. Atwood said the museum is incredibly thankful the family made the discovery and shared their findings. The Wankels are in D.C. for the opening.
A bronze cast of the T. rex, also known as “Big Mike,” stands outside the Museum of the Rockies. The museum also has a cast of the dinosaur’s skull in the Hall of Horns and Teeth. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport has the same skull cast displayed in its baggage claim area.
Although some locals were sad to see the real thing go, Atwater said the “Wankel T. rex” is a source of pride for the state. The specimen is on loan to the Smithsonian for the next 50 years.
“You can now go visit a piece of Montana in D.C.,” Atwater said.