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Famed Museum in Washington Welcomes T. Rex


A Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton is seen on display biting a Triceratops during the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's "David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-Deep Time" during a media preview in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Famed Museum in Washington Welcomes New Guest: T. rex
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The huge T.rex skeleton bends over a large triceratops lying on his side below. With its mouth open wide, the Tyrannosuarus rex looks ready to kill his prey with a final massive bite to the triceratops’s neck.

The display can be found at the National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian system in Washington, D.C.

The museum has sought a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton for many years. Before, it used a model of one. But museum director Kirk Johnson says that was never good enough.

"It's been kind of deeply embarrassing to be the national museum and NOT have a T. rex," he said.

The T. rex display is now the centerpiece of the museum's newest show, the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils — Deep Time. It opens to the public June 8. For Johnson, it is almost impossible to overstate the power and appeal of dinosaurs. Children are especially interested.

"Kids love dinosaurs in an almost pathological way," Johnson said, standing next to the remains of the top predator dinosaur.

The museum just missed out on buying a T. rex back in 1997, when an almost complete skeleton became available for sale. Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History won the purchase with a $7.6 million offer.

In this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, photo, Garth Dallman, center, and Bill Kouchie, right, both from the dinosaur restoration firm Research Casting International, Ltd., begin the of dismantling Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex, on display at Chicago's Field Museum
In this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, photo, Garth Dallman, center, and Bill Kouchie, right, both from the dinosaur restoration firm Research Casting International, Ltd., begin the of dismantling Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex, on display at Chicago's Field Museum

That T-rex is named Sue, after the fossil collector who found the bones in the American state of South Dakota. Officials at the Field Museum built a special area for the skeleton. It includes a gift store of all things Sue. The dinosaur even has her own Twitter account and a media presentation of her life story.

Kirk Johnson's team in Washington is clearly looking to build a similar image for their own T-rex.

The Smithsonian’s new dinosaur came from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. The skeleton is smaller and less complete than Sue.

The Army Corps of Engineers owned the bones, because they were discovered on land that the federal agency controls in Montana. In 2014, the Smithsonian negotiated a 50-year contract for control of the skeleton. The Smithsonian employed a team of experts in Canada to put the bones together.

The T. rex was 12 meters long and weighed at least 3,600 kilograms as an adult. Its remains now stand at the center of the new exhibition site, along with many other dinosaur skeletons. Among them are huge mastodons as well as prehistoric mammals the size of house cats.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's "David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-Deep Time" is seen during a media preview in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's "David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-Deep Time" is seen during a media preview in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2019.

The museum show seeks to tell the history of the planet and its wildlife. About three meters from the T. rex is a metal statue of the scientist Charles Darwin, looking thoughtful, with a bird on his shoulder.

In modern times, movies like "Jurassic Park" have helped grow dinosaur interest for a new generation of young fans. But such movies also represent the T. rex as a mostly huge, stupid and dangerous animal. Smaller velociraptors are presented as the true threat: quick, intelligent and vicious hunters in groups.

But the T. rex still holds power in the public imagination as the highest predator.

Johnson said scientists continue to learn new details about the lives and body systems of dinosaurs. Researchers recently found, for example, that the Tyrannosaurus rex had a second set of rib bones. They gave the animal a fuller appearance across the chest.

Johnson described the predator's body as "more like a boxer than a basketball player."

I’m Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver adapted this story from an Associated Press report. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

prey - n.an animal that is hunted or killed by another animal for food​

display - n. an arrangement of objects intended to decorate, advertise, entertain, or inform people about something​ an arrangement of objects intended to decorate, advertise, entertain, or inform people about something​

embarrassing - adj. a feeling of seeming foolish or ashamed

predator - n. an animal that lives by killing and eating other animals : an animal that preys on other animals​

pathological - adj. extreme in a way that is not normal or that shows an illness or mental problem​

exhibition - n. an event at which objects (such as works of art) are put out in a public space for people to look at : a public show of something​

chest - n. the front part of the body between the neck and the stomach​

boxer - n. someone who participates in the sport of boxing​

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