Long live the king. The Smithsonian's Tyrannosaurus rex specimen is welcomed by (from left): Kirk Johnson, Sant director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History; Kathy and Tom Wankel, who discovered the fossil in Montana in 198

James Di Loreto/Smithsonian Institution

Long live the king. The Smithsonian's Tyrannosaurus rex specimen is welcomed by (from left): Kirk Johnson, Sant director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History; Kathy and Tom Wankel, who discovered the fossil in Montana in 1988; and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dino Delivery: T. rex Arrives in Washington, D.C.

Thomas is a news intern at Science.

A Tyrannosaurus rex baring banana-sized teeth is taking over Washington, D.C.—and it came via FedEx. The 12-meter “Nation’s T. rex” arrived this morning at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History accompanied by a police escort and was greeted by a packed hall of reporters and dinosaur lovers. The 66-million-year-old bipedal dinosaur, uncovered in 1990, journeyed 3200 kilometers from its former home in Bozeman, Montana, in a dino-decorated delivery truck complete with its own tracking number. “I’m happy to say we FexExed the T. rex,” joked museum director Kirk Johnson before signing a 50-year loan agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the fossil’s former caretaker.

The 7-ton dinosaur, one of the five most complete specimens ever unearthed, will become the centerpiece of the museum’s $48 million renovated National Fossil Hall, scheduled to debut in 2019. The hall will be named in recognition of David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries Inc., who donated $35 million toward the makeover. The museum currently displays a replica skeleton erected shortly after the Smithsonian’s failed 1999 bid for the famous T. rex nicknamed “Sue.” Until National Fossil Day on 15 October, visitors can watch museum staff unpack, catalog, and 3D scan the fossilized bones in a “Rex Room” exhibit. The bones will then be shipped to Toronto for mounting.

“The Nation’s T. rex” tromped around eastern Montana during the Cretaceous period, dying of undetermined causes near a riverbank at about 18 years old. The dinosaur fossilized and remained undisturbed until 1988, when rancher Kathy Wankel spotted a fossil peeking out of the ground while hiking near Fort Peck Reservoir, an area managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Paleontologists excavated the 80% to 85% complete skeleton from 1989 through 1990 before transferring the bones to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. The dinosaur was nicknamed the “Wankel T. rex” after its discoverer—until its recent cross-country trek to its new home.

“We could not be more excited to welcome the Nation’s T. rex to Washington so it can be enjoyed by our 8 million visitors a year and serve as a gateway to the vast world of scientific discovery,” Johnson said.

Posted in Paleontology, People & Events