Rare 2,500-Pound Tyrannosaurus Rex Skull Discovered By Burke Museum Paleontologists

A rare 2,500-pound Tyrannosaurus rex skull was discovered by paleontologists with Seattle, Washington’s Burke Museum. According to reports, the skull, along with the dinosaur’s hip bones, jaw bones, and vertebrae, were unearthed at Montana’s Hell Creek Formation. Although it is currently encased in rock and layers of protective plaster, the T. rex skull will be on display at the museum beginning August 20.

The “Tufts-Love Rex,” is named for paleontology volunteers Jason Love and Luke Tufts, who are credited with making the significant find.

As reported by ABC News, the scientists initially discovered the T. rex’s vertebrae in summer 2015. Although they determined the bones belonged to a large carnivorous dinosaur, they did not realize it was a Tyrannosaurus rex until they returned to the site one year later.

The excavation, which took place on a rocky hillside, lasted one month. After removing more than 20 tons of rock and other debris, the paleontologists unearthed numerous large bones, including the right side of the T. rex’s skull.

To preserve the specimen, the skull was encased in several layers of plaster. Museum officials confirmed the plaster would remain on the Tyrannosaurus rex skull until it is removed from display.

Although they only recovered half the T. rex’s skull, paleontologists will return to the site next summer to recover the remaining half.

Altogether, 14 nearly-intact Tyrannosaurus rex skulls have been unearthed by archaeologists and paleontologists in North America. However, SUE the T. rex remains “the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found.”

Currently on display in Chicago’s Field Museum, SUE is 42 feet long and 13 feet tall. Although the skull on display with the dinosaur’s skeleton is a replica, SUE’s actual skull is viewed in a separate display.

The first known T. rex skeleton was unearthed by fossil hunter Barnum Brown. Like the Tufts-Love Rex, the first Tyrannosaurus rex was discovered at Montana’s Hell Creek Formation.

Although the specimen was originally sold to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, it is currently on display at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

Tyrannosaurus rex was officially named in 1905 by then president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn. Literally translated, Tyrannosaurus rex means “king of the tyrant lizards.”

With an exceptionally large head and short arms, T. rex is a member of the Tyrannosauroidea family, which also includes Albertosaurus, Alectrosaurus, Alioramus, Chingkankousaurus, Daspletosaurus, Eotyrannus, Gorgosaurus, Prodeinodon, Tarbosaurus, Zhuchengtyrannus, and possibly the Nanotyrannus.

As reported by Live Science, experts are unsure whether the Tyrannosaurus rex’s arms had any significant purpose. However, it is believed that the dinosaurs had “the strongest bite of any land animal that ever lived.”

Although Tyrannosaurus rex teeth look pointy and sharp, they are actually wider and flatter than they appear. Scientists believe the shape of the teeth increased their strength and protected them from damage from struggling prey.

The shape of the teeth also suggest the T. rex used its front teeth to catch prey and tear flesh. They believe the back teeth were then used to break the meat down so it could be swallowed.

Paleontologists are fairly certain that the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed what is now North America during the end of the Mesozoic Era, which was between 67 and 65 million years ago. It is believed that they were “among the last of the non-avian dinosaurs to exist prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, which wiped out the dinosaurs.”

The T. rex skull removed from Montana’s Hell Creek Formation this summer will remain on display at the Seattle, Washington, Burke Museum for a few weeks. After it is removed from the display, the plaster and remaining rock will be removed from the Tufts-Love Rex skull so it can be studied more closely.

[Image via Micha Fleuren/Shutterstock]