While SUE the T. rex is off display, there’s still a whole crew of dinos out to play. Take a tour of the Genius Hall of Dinosaurs in Evolving Planet to get acquainted with some of SUE’s future neighbors. (Do we smell a rivalry with tyrannosaur cousin Daspletosaurus? Will SUE strike up an odd-couple crime-fighting partnership with the armored Stegosaurus? Your guess is as good as ours.)
Another tyrannosaur in town: Daspletosaurus
At first glance, you might mistake this fellow theropod for a Tyrannosaurus rex. While T. rex is “king” as the largest of the tyrannosaurs, this group of predators includes several different species. This specimen is Daspletosaurus torosus, which lived during the Cretaceous (144–65 million years ago) and was unearthed in Alberta, Canada. In fact, we used to call this dino Albertosaurus, until the discovery of more complete fossils led scientists to re-identify it as Daspletosaurus. Like other tyrannosaurs, it had a massive skull with powerful jaws, and tiny forelimbs with only two functional fingers.
After saying hello to Daspletosaurus, head left and you’ll be greeted by one of the heavily-armored thyreophorans (“shield bearers”). Stegosaurus stenops lived during the Jurassic and sported those signature bony plates, or osteoderms. Stegosaurus might have used its plates for display, to attract potential mates, or intimidate rivals. Or, the osteoderms may have helped regulate body temperature. Grooves on the plates are evidence for blood vessels, which could’ve absorbed the sun’s heat to warm the body or released heat in a breeze, cooling the body.
Soaring sauropod heights
The biggest dinosaur in the hall is Apatosaurus excelsus. But this guy wasn’t the largest of the sauropods—at 72 feet long and weighing 33 tons, Apatosaurus was more like a middleweight. For comparison, the titanosaur coming to our main Stanley Field Hall this May, Patagotitan mayorum, will be 122 feet long. There’s actually another (smaller) titanosaur right here in this room—next to Apatosaurus, you’ll spot Rapetosaurus (ruh-PAY-tuh-SOR-us) krausei. This titanosaur was a juvenile, not fully grown when it died. But we wouldn’t mess with any sauropod—with strong, pillar-like legs and light, hollowed-out vertebrate, sauropods were truly built for monumental size.
While Triceratops might be the best-known ceratopsian (thank you, Cera the Triceratops), Anchiceratops also had some fancy headgear of its own. Triceratops had a solid frill, but Anchiceratops—like most ceratopsians—had a frill with two large openings (some scientists believe these openings reduced the frill’s weight). Here, we’re looking at the skull of Triceratops horridus and the frill and horns of Anchiceratops ornatus, both of which lived during the Cretaceous. Scientists don’t know for sure why ceratopsians had this ornamental flair, but one possibility is that it helped attract mates.
Hadrosaurs, the duck-billed dinos
Unlike ducks, hadrosaurs had beaks full of hundreds of teeth for grinding tough plant material. The Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus you see in Evolving Planet is a pretty special specimen—it’s the holotype, or the single specimen used to assess whether another individual is part of the same species. For a dinosaur bone to be identified as belonging to Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus, it has to match up to this particular skeleton.
Near Parasaurolophus is the smaller duck-billed Maiasaura peeblesorum. This isn’t just a smaller dinosaur; it’s a juvenile, like the Rapetosaurus specimen. A fully grown Maiasaura would’ve been about the same size as its duck-billed cousin, Parasaurolophus.
So, take a spin through the Hall of Dinosaurs to acquaint yourself with SUE’s future friends and frenemies. We’ll see how things shake out when the infamous T. rex is unveiled in their own private suite right next door in spring 2019.