Two University of Washington alums have brought to the Burke Museum one of the most intact Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found — and they plan to go back to Montana for more bones.
Weighing 2,500 pounds and measuring nearly 4 feet long, the skull of one of the most intact Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever discovered will now make its home in Seattle.
At least, University of Washington scientists assured gathered media, there is a skull in the hunk of rock and dirt that arrived at the Burke Museum Thursday morning.
The plaster-encased mass will be on temporary display in the museum lobby starting Saturday. In October, a team will begin the painstaking process of removing the fossilized skull.
The Tufts-Love Tyrannosaur — so named after Luke Tufts and Jason Love, the two UW alums and Burke volunteers who first found the skeleton — was hauled in by flatbed truck from Montana.
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“This is a huge find for the Burke Museum, for scientists and researchers and for the state of Washington,” said Dr. Gregory Wilson, the University of Washington paleontologist who led the excavation.
Love and Tufts spotted bones protruding from a hillside in May 2015 on the last day of a weeklong excursion into the Hell Creek formation, a fossil-rich area of northern Montana.
“It just looked how we’d been told that bones from a big predatory dinosaur like a T. rex looks,” Love said.
The pair, who are not trained paleontologists, alerted Wilson and others at the Burke Museum of their find. Over the next year, Wilson and a team of 35 volunteers and scientists confirmed the skeleton is a Tyrannosaur and excavated much of its remains.
Including the skull, 20 percent of the animal’s bones have been found. “We’re going to go back again next year to find the rest,” Wilson said. “There’s more in the hill.”
Once the skull is freed from the remaining rock, researchers will be able to study the dinosaur’s eating habits and the strength of its jaws, and to ultimately try to determine the cause of its death.
“There’s a great deal we still don’t know about these animals,” Wilson said. “Having this gives us an opportunity to fill in some gaps about how they lived and how they died.”
Wilson and his colleagues have already determined at least some of the dinosaur’s history. Based on the size of its skull, it was about 40 feet long from skull to tail and about 20 feet tall, he said. It was likely a 15-year-old adult when it died about 66 million years ago, which would have been about 300,000 years before the mass extinction that wiped the dinosaurs.
The museum expects to put the partially prepared skull on exhibit again in mid-March for its annual Dino Weekend. University officials hope to have the full specimen ready to show off by the opening of the museum’s new building in 2019.