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Naturalis Finds the Coveted T. Rex!

Naturalis Biodiversity Centre continues in its search for a  Tyrannosaurus Rex .  Excavation works commenced last week on a ranch in Montana, in collaboration with the Black Hills Institute. The excavation is still in progress, but it is already clear that the result will be a magnificent T. Rex.

Naturalis began its search for a Tyrannosaurus Rex – the King of the Dinosaurs – this spring. During the first expedition, only parts of the left foot and leg of the Tyrannosaurus Rex were found, although the expedition team had expected more remains. Naturalis is currently digging further in Montana at another T. Rex discovery site. Of this specimen, large parts of the enormous skull, spine and legs have already been uncovered. Since then, many more parts of the skeleton have been found. It is an adult specimen, most likely a female. The bones are well-preserved; they do not show any deformation or splintering, as is often the case with other fossilised dinosaurs.

With the T. Rex, Naturalis wants to bring home the most famous and iconic carnivorous dinosaur in the world; it currently has only herbivorous dinosaurs in its collection and is seeking a carnivore to complete the picture. The all-new Naturalis museum opens in 2017 and the highlight of its new exhibition will be a Dino Hall, which will display the extensive diversity of these reptiles. T. Rex will be the main attraction.

T. Rex is extremely rare and as such its importance as a public attraction is matched by its significance for science. Edwin van Huis, director of Naturalis Biodiversity Centre: “Each bone of every T. Rex provides more knowledge about this predator and its surroundings. We can conduct decades of research on this.” This will be the first original skeleton of a T. Rex that can be seen outside the United States. The fossil is the property of the landowner, but Naturalis has the right of first purchase. To get the purchase amount together, Naturalis will be running extensive fundraising campaigns.

Promising indications
T. Rex expert Pete Larson of the Black Hills Institute, Hill City, South Dakota, US, also played an important part in this discovery. He happened to know the place in Montana where the fossil remains were discovered by an amateur palaeontologist couple. They had uncovered a part of the skull, namely the lower jaw, some loose teeth and part of the hip and tail. Hopes were high that there would be more to come.

Scientific importance
Apart from the fact that the animal will be a public attraction for the museum, the T. Rex skeleton also has great scientific value. Palaeontologist and dinosaur expert Anne Schulp, participating in the excavation in America on behalf of Naturalis, said: “I am delighted to have been able to participate in this excavation. There are few known fossil discoveries of the T. Rex, while to this day may questions remain unanswered. For example, we still do not know exactly how long its tail was – no complete tail has ever been found. Distinguishing between males and females is also an interesting puzzle that is still not completely solved.” There are also questions such as: how intelligent was the T. Rex, was it a social animal, did it practice parental care, did it exhibit migratory behaviour? Naturalis research can use this fossil to contribute to solving these issues, gaining new insights or even raising new questions.

The King of the Carnivores
Tyrannosaurus Rex lived during the late Cretaceous period, 67.5 to 66 million years ago. It is one of the largest carnivores that ever roamed the earth. There is no known vertebrate with a more powerful bite than this dinosaur. An adult animal could be almost thirteen meters long and weigh four to five tonnes. Remains of the T. Rex have only been discovered in western North America.

Experience the excavation itself
The public can follow what happens during the excavation and share in the excitement. The expedition members are recording their daily experiences in text and video on a news blog at National Geographic Magazine Netherlands/Belgium has also reported on the excavation and will publish this in a later issue.

Children can experience the expedition; a special theme page is been set up on the Naturalis children’s site at Anyone can go on a virtual expedition with the T. Rex Expedition Game, which is accessible from the same location.