Intact skeleton of tyrannosaur believed found

June 30, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

TORONTO -- Scientists announced yesterday that they have discovered what they believe is an intact fossil skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex in a hillside in southwestern Saskatchewan.

The rare find was disclosed by John Storer, curator of earth sciences at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Fewer than a dozen complete specimens of the giant, flesh-eating dinosaur have been excavated. Most museum tyrannosaurs are composites.

Mr. Storer said the part of the skeleton uncovered so far -- including six-inch teeth -- "leads us to believe that it's not only a Tyrannosaurus rex, but a bigger than usual specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex." The dinosaur stood more than 18 feet tall, was about 50 feet long and weighed about 6 tons, Mr. Storer said.

Few dinosaurs have captured the public imagination like the tyrannosaur, which is Greek for "terrible lizard."

The beast walked upright on powerful hind legs supported by a long tail and roamed western North American about 65 million years ago in the late Cretaceous period.

Depictions of the creature as a merciless predator populate countless movies, most recently in "Jurassic Park," where one dines on a lawyer.

The Saskatchewan fossil was discovered in 1991, but it was not until this year that researchers knew the extent of their find.

Paleontologists have excavated part of the upper jaw, several vertebrae, a leg and some teeth.

The bones are piled together haphazardly, suggesting that the tyrannosaur may have been torn apart by an ancient scavenger, Mr. Storer said.

Excavation is expected to continue until August, when the skeleton will be moved to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum for study and reconstruction.

The site is on private property near the town of Eastend, 217 miles southwest of Regina. Mr. Storer said many dinosaur fossils have been found in the area, particularly those of triceratops and thescelosaurus, a small, rare plant-eater.

But the tyrannosaur, he said, is "special. It's our signature dinosaur."

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