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NC Museum of Natural Sciences unveils world's first complete T. rex

Posted November 17, 2020 6:00 a.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2020 5:47 a.m. EST

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences announced Tuesday a first-of-its-kind exhibit coming to Raleigh that can't be found anywhere else in the world.

The museum is now in possession of an extremely rare discovery -- the remains of a young Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops that were found buried together in Hells Creek, Montana.

The two dinosaurs may have dueled to their deaths.

"This is essentially a murder mystery in the making for the scientific team to uncover," said Lindsay Zanno, the museum's head paleontologist.

T. rex leg bones and rib cage

The remains were uncovered about 10 years ago, but they're estimated to be around 67 million years old. Zanno and the museum became involved around five years ago when their team first saw the specimens in a warehouse in Long Island, where they had gone to auction but not been sold.

Zanno said this is the first time in known history that a T. rex has been 100% recovered. The Triceratops, too, is almost completely in its full form, and both specimens even contain skin impressions from the dinosaurs.

"These specimens are pristine," she said. "Every bone is in its natural position as it was when the animal died."

In fall 2022, the life-size fossils will go on display as part of the museum's permanent collection. Even after the exhibit launches, scientists will keep studying the fossils for years to come to learn what could have happened to the dinosaurs that day.

"Fifty or 100 years from now, people will be able to come back and learn more from what we expose through modern technologies," said Roy Campbell, the museum's director of exhibits and digital media.

According to Campbell, a main goal of the exhibit is to inspire future scientists by explaining the technologies and how they are used to learn more about dinosaurs.

T. rex full shot

"This is an unfolding story," Campbell said. "When people lay eyes on these specimens in 2022, it's just the beginning. The science begins here in this museum as we begin to uncover and decode the story locked inside these fossils. It will be ever-changing for many years to come."

The new exhibit, when it opens in two years, will be called the SECU Dinolab and is sponsored by the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.

Campbell said the wait will be well worth it as the museum prepares the dinosaurs for the public eye.

"They are colossal, especially the Triceratops," said Campbell. Since it was young when it died, the T. rex is smaller, but Campbell said in its complete form it is "far more beautiful than any other display he's seen.

Dueling Dinosaurs at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

"There's a lot of excitement in the museum," he said. "But the real payoff is when we see the general public coming in, because it's their museum. When we get to share the treasures, that's the most exciting part."

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