The Hell Creek Formation, a 300-foot thick layer of rock that is widespread across eastern Montana and the Dakotas, has yielded many spectacular fossils including the majority of the known skeletons of Tyrannosaurus rex, a carnivorous dinosaur that roamed much of western North America about 66 to 68 million years ago. In 1988, while hiking near the Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana, rancher Kathy Wankel encountered some curious bones and brought them to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman for identification. Her discovery turned out to be the arm bones of a T. rex, remains so rare that Jack Horner, the museum’s curator of paleontology (and technical advisor to the Jurassic Park movie series), led a team to excavate the site. The dig yielded a nearly complete skeleton now known as the Wankel rex.
Now the behemoth is leaving Montana and is coming to the Mall, for eventual display in the Natural History Museum’s new dinosaur hall, scheduled to open in 2019. Only a few nearly complete T. rex skeletons are on display anywhere in the world, and the Wankel rex’s completeness (80 to 85 percent of the skeleton, including the skull) and high quality of preservation offer exciting research possibilities.
Join Wankel and Horner as they discuss this important discovery with Matthew Carrano, curator of Dinosauria, and Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the Natural History Museum, an expert in the Hell Creek Formation. You’ll also get a sneak peek at a few of the Wankel T. rex bones.
Watch Channel 7's coverage of the announcement, Smithsonian Acquires T. rex on wjla.com.