Craig Johnson, in Dry Bones, uses the discovery of a T-Rex fossil in Absaroka County in Wyoming as the inspiration for an interesting Walt Longmire mystery. No doubt to heighten interest he sets out the T-Rex is the largest discovered in the world. He further set out that Wyoming has been the home of many of the T-Rex fossils discovered.
Johnson’s statement about the fictional T-Rex being the largest caused me to reflect on a T-Rex fossil found in southwestern Saskatchewan near the small town of Eastend. Some years ago I had visited the museum, in the area of the discovery, whose primary exhibit is that T-Rex. I recalled that it was stated to be the largest in the world.
Seeking to solve this minor mystery I set off into the internet.
The Field Museum maintains it has the largest in “Sue”:
The world-famous fossil known as “SUE” is the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex every found. SUE measures 40.5 feet long from snout to tail and 13 feet tall at the hip. She boasts 58 dagger-like teeth and cuts a fine figure as the Museum’s most popular backdrop for visitor photos. A replica skull crowns the skeleton in Stanley Field Hall, while SUE’s original skull, which weighs 600 pounds, rests within an exhibition on the Museum’s balcony, under a mural depicting this majestic creature in the flesh.
In 2006 the website phys.org advised that Montana now had the record, at least for the skull:
The world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex skull, unearthed nearly 40 years ago in eastern Montana, is now on display at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Read more at httpa://phys.org/news/2006-04-museum-unveils-world-largest-t-rex.html#jCp
The skull measures 5 feet long, making it bigger than the previous record-holder – the T-rex named “Sue” at Chicago’s Field Museum, according to Jack Horner, the Museum’s curator of paleontology.
Skull fragments from the specimen, known as MOR 008, were found in the Hell Creek Formation near Billings in the late 1960’s and collected by Bill McMannis, an MSU geologist. Museum preparatory Carrie Ancell began their reconstruction in the late 1980’s, and preparatory Michael Holland finished the job this year.
There was a major lawsuit over “Sue” who was discovered in South Dakota that further inspired Johnson:
Forma charges didn’t arrive for months afterwards, but the government ended up alleging that the BHI team had removed Sue from federal land, rendering his agreement with Williams (rancher) void. Complicating the matter further was a claim from the Bureau of Indian Affairs claiming that Sue was found on reservation land, further mooting the already moot deal.
So basically, the whole situation devolved into a four-way tug-of war between the Larsons, Maurice Williams, the federal government, and the reservation. The battle went for years, all while Sue was locked up in a shipping container collecting dust.
Now in Saskatchewan the T-Rex fossil, known as “Scotty” was discovered in the summer of 1991 by a high school teacher, Robert Gebhardt, searching for fossils with palaeontologists from the Royal Saskatchewan Musuem. Their website describes “Scotty” as “the world’s most massive T.rex skeleton”.
On Scotty’s size I found an article from 2011 about a scientist from the University of Saskatchewan (the university I attended decades ago):
Lara Shychoski has developed techniques that utilize the technology of CT scans to recreate the entire head of many of the world’s largest T- Rex specimens, including Scotty, the beloved mascot of Eastend, Saskatchewan’s T-Rex Discovery Centre.
“Scotty is possibly the largest T-Rex out there,” she says. “There are others, like Sue from the Field Museum in Chicago that have been described as larger, but when you examine the bones and the skeleton of Scotty, you can see that he is so robust. His bone structure and shape is just fascinating.”
With a skull that measures five-feet long, recreating Scotty was no simple task, as CT scanners can usually handle about two-foot specimens. So, Shychoski ran 30 separate pieces of Scotty’s skull through the scanners before coming up with enough information to recreate a 3D model. It is providing valuable information about the strong and weak points of T-rex specimens. And despite what we might think, there are actually a dozen different species in the family Tyrannosauridae, “and some were as large as Scotty or as small as a dog, but they all exhibit similar traits.”
While everyone wants their T-Rex to be the largest I will lay claim for Scotty being both the most massive and the largest.