Paleontologists Find a Nearly Complete T. Rex Skull in Montana

Dave DeMar / Burke Museum
Dave DeMar / Burke Museum / Dave DeMar / Burke Museum

Seattle just got a new famous fossil: a 2500-pound Tyrannosaurus rex skull. Paleontologists dug up one of the most complete dinosaur skulls ever discovered this summer, transporting it back to the University of Washington's Burke Museum.

Researchers from the museum and the University of Washington (UW) working in the fossil-rich Hell Creek Formation in Montana found the T. rex when a pair of volunteers spotted bones sticking out from the hillside. In the excavation process, they had to remove about 20 tons of rock from the hill, but the skull has now been successfully transferred to the Pacific Northwest.

Named the Tufts-Love Rex after its discoverers, the dinosaur specimen is approximately 66.3 million years old and was about 15 years old when it died (T. rex often lived to 25 or 30 years old). There have been only 14 somewhat complete T. rex skulls discovered around the world before now, according to the university, making this a pretty exciting find. The skull itself is about 4 feet long and still has some teeth.

In total, the bones found so far comprise about 20 percent of the T. rex. Researchers excavated vertebrae and bones from the pelvis, lower jaw, and ribs of the animal. There may still be more bones yet to be found at the site, including the remainder of the skull bones that are still missing from the fossil. 

Excavating all the bones is slow work, and the researchers will return to Montana to work on it next summer. Cleaning the skull for museum display might take up to a year, but it’s on display (though covered in plaster) until October 2. 

This T. rex “is definitely one of the most significant specimens yet found, and because of its size, is sure to yield important information about the growth and possible eating habits of these magnificent animals,” paleontologist Jack Horner, who founded the Hell Creek Project that uncovered the specimen, explained in a UW press release. Now headed by UW vertebrate paleontologist Greg Wilson, the project has discovered 11 T. rex fossils so far.

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