From T. rex to Titanosaur, Big Dinosaur Changes

We’re celebrating the Museum’s 125th anniversary in 2018 and marking the occasion in some big (as in, dinosaur-sized!) ways. SUE the T. rex is getting a makeover thanks to ongoing scientific research, and we’re welcoming a BIG new dinosaur to the Museum.

Meet the titanosaur, the biggest dinosaur ever discovered 

Our new dinosaur is a cast of Patagotitan mayorum (pat-uh-go-tie-tan my-or-um), a giant, long-necked herbivore from Argentina. From snout to tail, it stretches 122 feet long, longer than two accordion CTA buses end-to-end. The titanosaur will make its home in our main Stanley Field Hall, standing near the fighting African elephants. And it’s so tall that you’ll see its head peeking over our second-floor balcony!

Once it arrives, you’ll be able to touch the titanosaur cast, walk underneath it, and take selfies with it from the balcony. Some of its real bones will also be on display, including an 8-foot-long thighbone.

How big is the titanosaur, really? 

  • End to end, it would take about 14 titanosaurs to climb up Willis Tower

  • One titanosaur = 25 Danny DeVitos in length

  • It probably weighed 70 tons, or as much as 10 bull African elephants

  • It would take just over three titanosaurs to line up from home plate to center field at Wrigley Field

What’s new with SUE? 

Meanwhile, SUE—the biggest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex discovered—is moving on up to brand new digs on the second floor and getting key scientific updates.

Reuniting SUE with their gastralia 

The gastralia are a set of bones that look like an additional set of ribs stretched across T. rex’s belly. To date, SUE’s gastralia haven’t been attached to the rest of their skeleton. That’s because gastralia are rarely preserved in tyrannosaurs, and scientists weren’t quite sure how to position them when SUE’s skeleton was first mounted in 2000. Ongoing research now gives us a clearer picture of where SUE’s gastralia belong and what function they served—facilitating breathing. Like their modern bird relatives, dinosaurs had lungs comprised of an intricate network of airsacs. Instead of having a muscular diaphragm to help push air in and out of their lungs like we do, they used the structural support of gastralia got the job done.  

Updating SUE’s pose 

With the gastralia and a few other changes to their mount, SUE will appear more true to life. “T. rex had a bulging belly—it wasn’t sleek and gazelle-like the way you might think from looking at SUE now without gastralia,” says Associate Curator of Dinosaurs Pete Makovicky. “We’ll also update the body stance, so SUE will be walking rather than skulking; the arms will come down a little, and we’ll readjust the wishbone.”

Exploring how T. rex lived 

SUE will have a new gallery in Evolving Planet, our permanent exhibition tracing the story of life on Earth. Here, they’ll be just next door to the hall of dinosaurs that includes Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus. The new exhibition space will tell the story of SUE’s life in detail, including fossils discovered alongside SUE that illustrate the world in which this T. rex lived.

While it might be hard to imagine Stanley Field Hall without SUE, long-time Museum paleontologist and Head of Geological Collections Bill Simpson notes that the hall has always been a changing space. “I’ve worked at The Field since 1979, and I’ve seen Stanley Field Hall undergo a lot of changes in that time,” says Simpson. “When I started, we had a tyrannosaur in Stanley Field Hall, the Daspletosaurus that’s now in Evolving Planet. In the mid-nineties, we replaced it with the Brachiosaurus cast that’s now on the terrace outside the Museum, and in 2000 we welcomed SUE. There’s always a lot of change in that space as we find new ways to share our science with the public.” Plus, he adds, while SUE’s new, bulkier appearance might take some getting used to, “That’s the way science works—we’re always making new discoveries.”

When is all of this happening? 

SUE has moved from Stanley Field Hall and will be unveiled in the new gallery in the spring of 2019. The titanosaur will be on view starting in May 2018.

Stay tuned for details about #SUEOnTheMove, stay in touch with @SUEtheTrex on Twitter, and follow behind-the-scenes updates from The Field Museum on social media. We’re excited to share these changes with you! 

 

These changes are possible thanks to a gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund.