Our fascination with Tyrannosaurus Rex

This article, Our fascination with Tyrannosaurus Rex, originally appeared on CBSNews.com

At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City stands a goliath: The most accurate reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus Rex ever made.

And according to Mark Norell, head paleontologist at the museum, the exhibit is notable for some new ideas, such as the feathers. Newsflash: the king of the dinosaurs probably did look like it was wearing a bad toupee.

"And the eyes – one of the things that people don't understand is just how good these eyes were," Norell said. "Not only did these guys see in color, they see in more colors than we do."

The show, like the films, plays on every kid's fantasy of meeting a dinosaur face-to-face (or at least digging one up).

What could be cooler than that? So, Teichner headed off to the Badlands of Montana – T. rex country – with a team from the University of Kansas led by paleontologist David Burnham.

Sixty-five to seventy million years ago, this was subtropical forestland, bordering a giant inland ocean. Burnham said, "What we're standing on is the last place dinosaurs can be found on this planet. They went extinct because a space rock crashed into the Earth."

Teichner asked, "How do you even know where to look?"

"What one has to do is learn how to read the rocks," Burnham replied. "You have that tan color sitting right on top of that gray mudstone there, and that interface for some reason tends to have more dinosaurs than any other interface."

One of Burnham's students found a T. rex here in 2017, a juvenile maybe 11 years old. The team named it Laurel. It is now in Burnham's lab at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, 15-20% complete.

That find, he said, was "incredibly huge. I mean, you don't find a juvenile T. rex every day."

KU student Jordan Van Sickler found Laurel's upper jaw in the summer of 2018.

It's incredibly hard work, scraping away, hour after hour, in what's called "the bone zone."  It's tedious with a capital T … until somebody finds something.  Less than an hour after "Sunday Morning" arrived on our first day, KU student Loren Gurche started turning up teeth. Then, volunteer Wes Benson found a tooth. "That particular tooth is literally the best find of my life," he said. "It hasn't seen the sunlight for, you know, 65, 66 million years until just now."


     For more info:

T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator, at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City (through August 9, 2020)Paleontological Institute, University of KansasUniversity of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, Division of Vertebrate Paleontology"Jurassic World Live Tour""T-Rex Tries Again: Return of the King" by Hugh Murphy (Plume), in Hardcover and eBook formats, available via AmazonPaleontological Society

    Story produced by Robbyn McFadden.

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