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Real fossilized T. rex featured in new MOR exhibit

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MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Exactly one year after the “Wankel T. rex” left Montana for Washington, D.C., the Museum of the Rockies opened a new permanent exhibit featuring a towering dinosaur from northern Montana, and six Tyrannosaurus rex skulls.

“The Tyrant Kings” exhibit opened April 11, in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex of Montana State University’s museum in Bozeman.

Visitors can see a real, fossilized T. rex skeleton that’s approximately 12 feet tall and 38 feet long. Called “Montana’s T. rex,” the skeleton is approximately 60 percent real bone and one of the most complete specimens ever discovered. It’s the only T. rex skeleton to have been found with floating ribs in its abdominal cavity. It would have weighed nearly seven tons when it lived 65 million years ago.

The exhibit includes a time-lapse video of how museum staff assembled Montana’s T. rex, as well as a series of T. rex skulls from Montana, ranging from one of the smallest ever found at 13.5 inches long, to the largest one in the world at 60 inches long.

With the opening of the exhibit, MOR administrators said the museum joins an elite group of museums around the world that display actual T. rex skeletons instead of replicas or casts.

“The science and research behind this exhibit is remarkable,” MOR Executive Director Shelley McKamey said in a press release. “It’s every bit as impressive as the exhibit itself.”

Montana’s T. rex was discovered in 1997 near the town of Fort Peck, thus its original name of “Peck’s Rex.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture transferred ownership to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which then named the Museum of the Rockies as the repository. Montana’s T. rex entered the museum’s paleontology collection in 1998. It’s the first mounted, real-bone skeleton to be displayed from America’s Public Trust.

“The people of Montana, as well as the entire country, now have a T. rex specimen that is owned by them and displayed for them,” McKamey said. “The exhibit not only fulfills a promise made by MOR to all of Montana, but also the mission of MOR to inspire life-long learning and advance knowledge through collections, research and discovery.”

The Wankel T. rex, which left the MOR on April 11, 2014, is on loan to the Smithsonian Institution for 50 years. It will be the centerpiece of a new paleontology exhibit that’s scheduled to open in 2019 in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It’s predicted that at least 7 million people a year will view the Wankel T. rex.

Kathy Wankel of Angela, Mont., discovered her namesake dinosaur in 1988 on federal land near the Fort Peck Reservoir in northeast Montana. Twenty-six years later, the 65-million-year-old T. rex headed for Washington, D.C. in a customized Federal Express truck.

The Museum of the Rockies is currently open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Summer hours – when the museum is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily – beginning on Memorial Day.

Megan Paulson is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Outlaw Partners.

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