Paleontologists Discover Huge, Nearly Complete T. Rex Skull

Introduction

The 4-foot long, 2,500-pound skull, discovered in northern Montana, may be one of the best-preserved specimens ever found.
Paleontologists prepare to remove the T. rex skull from the dig site in northern Montana. (
Paleontologists prepare to remove the T. rex skull from the dig site in northern Montana. (Credit: Dave DeMar/Burke Museum)

The skeleton was discovered at Montana’s Hell Creek Formation, a site that has produced a number of significant fossil finds in the past, including those of mammals, fish, reptiles and nearly a dozen additional dinosaur specimens. Luke Tufts and Jason Love, two volunteers from Seattle’s Burke Museum of National History and Culture, made the latest find on the final day of a dig in 2015, when they spotted the remains sticking out from a hillside. Scientists estimate they’ve recovered at least 20 percent of the T. rex’s skeleton, including portions of its pelvis, lower jaw and vertebrae, and believe future excavations at the site, planned for next summer, will yield additional finds.

One of the T. rex's teeth discovered at the site.
One of the T. rex’s teeth discovered at the site. (Credit: Tom Wolken/Burke Museum)

But, it’s the skull that has scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts most excited. Nicknamed “Tufts-Love” after the paleontologist pair, the 4-foot long, 2,500-pound skull is one of the largest and best-preserved specimens ever found. It took more than four dozen people several weeks to extract it from the 20 tons of rock in which it was buried. Based on initial research on the skull, paleontologists estimate that Tufts-Love was 15 when it died, middle-aged for a Tyrannosaurus rex, which had a 25-30 year life span. It was 15 to 20 feet tall and 40 feet long—roughly the size of a city bus—making it 85 percent the size of the biggest T. rex ever found. Tufts-Love likely died 66.3 million years ago, right at the end of the Cretaceous period, approximately 300,000 years before the mass extinction of dinosaurs.

UW Burke Museum paleontologists and crew members transporting the skull. (
UW Burke Museum paleontologists and crew members transporting the skull. (Credit: Burke Museum/University of Washington)

The skull, in a protective plaster cast similar to those used for broken bones, arrived at the Burke Museum on Tuesday and will be on display through October 2, 2016, where it’s expected to be a big draw. “We think the Tufts-Love Rex is going to be an iconic specimen for the Burke Museum and the state of Washington and will be a must-see for dinosaur researchers as well,” said Greg Wilson, a University of Washington professor and the head of the team that located the remains. The next step for scientists will be a painstaking cleaning effort to remove the residual plaster and soft sandstone encasing it, an effort that could take more than a year. Researchers hope this remarkable find will provide insight into the T. rex’s diet. As paleontologist (and co-founder of the UW project) Jack Horner noted in a press release that Tufts-Love is “sure to yield important information about the growth and possible eating habits of these magnificent animals.”

Article Details:

Paleontologists Discover Huge, Nearly Complete T. Rex Skull

  • Author

    Barbara Maranzani

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2016

  • Title

    Paleontologists Discover Huge, Nearly Complete T. Rex Skull

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/news/paleontologists-discover-huge-nearly-complete-t-rex-skull

  • Access Date

    December 12, 2017

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks