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The Smithsonian Natural History Museum is getting a $48 million dollar renovation, soon, and along with the renovation, the museum is getting its very own original Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. While the T. rex isn’t the largest carnivorous dinosaur known to man, the species is still big enough and famous enough to inspire the right level of fear and awe in bystanders. Plus, the skeleton the Natural History Museum is legally acquiring is very special, indeed.
The skeleton is considered to be one of the most complete skeletons on the market, today. The T. rex is actually 85% intact, which may not seem particularly complete to those not in the know. However, for a Tyrannosaurus rex specimen, 85% is markedly good, and includes an intact skull that is described as 4 feet long, with teeth “the size of bananas.” Its body size is roughly 40 feet in length and if the tallest person were to stand under its pelvis, they still wouldn’t be anywhere close to eye-level with the pelvic bone.
To give you an idea of how important the skeleton is, ABC 7 DC caught up with museum director Kirk Johnson to talk about the T. rex. I’m not sure how accurate his description is, but it still makes a catchy statement.
“It’s the fossil equivalent of the Hope diamond.”
The Natural History Museum already has a dinosaur exhibit, but some of the skeletons in the exhibit, the T. rex included, are casts rather than actual fossils. Revamping the exhibit will allow for people to see an almost complete skeleton, rather than a replica. Unfortunately, in order to re-do the exhibit for the awesome specimen, the WSJ is reporting that the dinosaur exhibit will be closing its doors in the spring of 2014 and will not be expected to open again until 2019.
The skeleton was discovered in 1988 by a rancher named Kathy Wankel, and the skeleton was subsequently named the Wankel T. rex after the woman. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers loaned the skeleton to the Museum of the Rockies until 2011, before signing a contract to move it to the National History Museum. According to Livescience, a cast of the Wankel T. rex can be seen in front of the Museum of the Rockies at the University of Montana. For the real deal, you’ll have to wait until 2019, but luckily, the Natural History Museum will eventually have the skeleton on display for fifty years.