Animals

Skull and Bones: T. Rex Fossil Photos

A closer look at one of history's fiercest predators.

This week came the news of a "major" fossil find: A Tyrannosaurus rex from Montana's famous Hell Creek Formation, one with what paleontologists expect will be a fully intact skull (only half the skull is visible now; the other is still encased in rock). Well preserved T. rex skulls are tough to come by, with scarcely more than a dozen curated in the world. On the heels of the new find, we thought it would be fun to take a look at a few more pieces of T. rex, just to appreciate the wonder that this creature must have been.

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Photo: University of Washington

If you ever wanted to get the full "how fierce was it?" T. rex experience, you could always start with "SUE," probably the most famous collection of dinosaur bones in the world. She's considered the biggest, most complete T. rex skeleton ever discovered. Found in South Dakota in 1990, she gets her name from her discoverer, paleontologist Sue Hendrickson. She lives in Chicago's Field Museum and measures 42 feet long from snout to tail, standing about 13 feet tall at the hip. FYI, that's not her real skull -- it's a replica. Her real noggin, all 600 pounds of it, is displayed in a different exhibit.

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Photo: Getty Images/Richard T. Nowitz

If you're thinking this is a T. rex claw, you're thinking right. It's a toe claw, one of three it had per hind limb. They were sharp and well suited to hunting whatever prey the big carnivore wanted to take down.

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Photo: Getty Images/Walter Geiersperger

Remember "SUE"? Here are a few of her teeth. Yikes. T. rex teeth were deeply serrated, flesh-tearing weapons that could be up to 1 foot long. The iconic dinosaur had the strongest bite of any terrestrial animal ever known.

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Photo: Corbis/VCG

More teeth, if you can handle the sight of chompers as big as human hands.

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Photo: Getty Images/Layne Kennedy

Finding a T. rex fossil is all fun and games, until you have to clear away the dirt and rock encasing one without damaging the precious find itself. Here, a high-pressure hose is used to carefully sandblast dirt from a pelvic bone of "Stan" the T. rex, at the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research. To extract the new skull just found in Montana, paleontologists say it could take up to one year.

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Photo: Getty Images/Layne Kennedy

Just for sheer scale, here's SUE's real head next to the decidedly smaller one of paleontologist Peter Larson, president of South Dakota's Black Hill Institute of Geological Research.

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Photo: Getty Image/Layne Kennedy

Here is SUE's gigantic jaw bone.

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Photo: Corbis/VCG

T. rex's tail was long, in order to balance out its enormous, weighty head. The tail could have upwards of 40 vertebrae. Here's a closer look at SUE's tail. Researchers say some of her vertebrae were fused and suggestive of arthritis.

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Photo: Philip Gould