Smithsonian Finally Acquires the King of the Dinosaurs: The T. Rex

First Posted: Jul 01, 2013 01:20 PM EDT

It's known as the king of the dinosaurs, the massive creature with teeth the size of bananas. It once stalked through the forests of the Cretaceous Period, hunting its prey relentlessly. Now, the Smithsonian may be acquiring this ferocious predator for itself: the terrifying Tyrannosaurus rex.

The Smithsonian has long tried to acquire a T. rex specimen. Yet until now, the institution has been unsuccessful. Specimens that contain most of their bones are relatively rare, which means that most locations that possess a skeleton are loathe to part with it--even to a museum as prestigious as the Smithsonian.

Fortunately for the institution, though, the Army Corps of Engineers is loaning its mostly-complete skeleton to the museum for the next 50 years, according to The Daily Southerner. The specimen, named the Wankel Rex, was first discovered on an island on the Fort Peck reservoir in Montana by amateur fossil hunter, Kathy Wankel. Since the reservoir was owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time, the remains--one of the most complete skeletons at the time--fell into their possession.

The skeleton itself is about 85 percent intact, according to Smithsonian magazine. Although there are other skeletons that are more complete, it's still an impressive specimen. In addition, the museum plans to fill in any gaps that the T. rex might have by using new technological advances. More specifically, researchers plan to digitally scan every bone and create a virtual T. rex. They then plan to cast bones and fill in the blanks. They hope that by doing so, they can answer some questions about the massive dinosaur.

"It's the most famous dinosaur of all time, and yet we don't really know the details of the differences between the known skeletons," said Kirk Johnson, Sant director of the museum, in an interview with Smithsonian magazine. "So ideally what we'd like to do is scan all the known skeletons and get a good sense of the variation between them."

Currently, officials plan for the dinosaur remains to arrive in Washington D.C. on October 16. Once it's unpacked, visitors to the Smithsonian will be able to enjoy the massive, 7-ton skeleton for years to come.

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