Pricey T. rex Heads for Chicago

Scientists hope to learn more about the lifestyle of history's most notorious predator after the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found was auctioned off Saturday for a record $7.6 million. The fossil is headed to Chicago's Field Museum, which used contributions from McDonald's Corp., Walt Disney World, the California State University system, and the Getty Conservation Institute to pay a total of $8.4 million (including a 10% house commission) for its 65-million-year-old prize. They already knew Sue was no stranger to combat: There are dinosaur tooth marks in her skull and a broken tooth embedded in a rib.

Discovered in South Dakota in 1990, the fossil--dubbed Sue after its discoverer, Sue Hendrickson--was subsequently seized by federal agents. Since then it's been captive to litigation over ownership of the land, which is part of an Indian reservation (Science, 19 Sept, p. 1767). The courts finally ruled that it belonged to the landowner, Maurice Williams, who will pocket the profit.

The fossils' finders, from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota, wanted to get the animal back but dropped out early in the 9-minute bidding session. The bidding started at $500,000 and quickly narrowed down to a contest between the Field and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Museum President John McCarter Jr. says a McDonald's Fossil Preparation Lab will be built at the museum, where the public can watch scientists at work. Sue is expected to go on display in 2000.

Posted in Paleontology, Archaeology