Despite those stumpy little arms the Tyrannosaurus rex (tyrant lizard king) must have been an awesome beast when roaming the earth some 65 million years ago. Even today when you come face to face with all those huge teeth its hard not to think about the damage this thing could have unleashed on its dinosaur prey including other T. rex’s!
At the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana they have a very impressive permanent dinosaur exhibition of fossils and bones found in Montana in their Siebel Dinosaur Complex. You know you are in for a good visit when you see the life-size bronze skeleton statue of “Big Mike” out the front. More formally known as Wankel T. rex (MOR 555), the actual skeleton was found on federal government land in eastern Montana in 1988 by Kathy Wankel. Since 2014 it is on a 50 year loan to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.! His replica skull is on display inside the museum though.
As you work your way through the three main exhibit halls you will see all sorts of fossilised remains from dinosaur eggs to skulls and bones found under Big Sky Country. There are also recreations of what dinosaurs would have looked liked including having feathers (evidence has been found around the world to indicate that some dinosaurs did indeed have feathers).
Then you enter the main hall and are greeted by truly impressive sight. There before you stands a massive, fully assembled Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton standing over you with big claws and rows of teeth awaiting to gnash their way to dinner!
This big fella is known as Montana’s T. rex (MOR 980 discovered in eastern Montana in 1997) and to be honest he (is more than impressive at 3.7 metres tall (12 feet) and 12 metres long from head to tail (40 feet long)! They say he would have weighed around 7 tonnes and was obviously very deserving of the tyrant lizard king name!
Hello Jurassic Park! Jack Horner, the museums retired Curator of Paleontology was a scientific advisor for all the Jurassic Park movies and the TV series Terra Nova (2011). He even made a cameo in Jurassic World (2015) as a park employee in the raptor enclosure.
The displayed skeleton of Montana’s T. rex is a mix of real (dark colour) and reconstructed materials (light colour). Found near Fort Peck Dam in eastern Montana it is apparently one of the most complete T. rex skeletons ever found.
To avoid it accidentally falling, the actual skull of Montana’s T. rex is in a nearby display case and it is huge but when compared to nearby Custer rex with a skull said to be 1.5 metres (5 feet) long, and one of the biggest T. rex skulls ever found, the mind just boggles (although I have read the skull was incorrectly reconstructed and it is actually really a little smaller than that, either way its huge)!
Nearby is the evidence of what the teeth could do to a Triceratops. There is also a great display of various Triceratops skulls and skeletons at various ages from a baby to a fully grown adult.
I am not sure I will be around to see “Big Mike” return to Montana in 50 years time but I am glad I made it out to Bozeman. The Museum of the Rockies is one cool place and well worth the trip to go see the dinosaur exhibits.