If you’re looking for skeletons and skulls of the dinosaur whose name means “King of the Tyrant Lizards,” you’d probably start in a place whose name is equally scary … like Washington DC or Hell Creek. Two amateur paleontologists chose the latter – a well-known fossil site in Montana - and were rewarded with the discovery of a nearly-complete, 2.500-pound T. Rex skull. Befitting its fearsome reputation, they gave it the name Tufts-Love. Wait, what?
Luke Tufts and Jason Love (OK, now you know how the skull got its name) are volunteer paleontologists at Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington. While on a month-long expedition this summer in Montana’s Hell Creek Formation – one of the largest dinosaur fossil sites in the world – they found bone fragments that had the characteristics of T. Rex fossils. This being one of the largest repositories of T. Rex skeletons, it was a safe bet that more of this tyrant lizard would be found.
Of course, you don’t just grab a shovel and dig in Hell Creek. It took Tufts, Love and a total of 45 experienced workers a number of weeks to carefully brush away the dirt until they uncovered a paleontologist’s dream – a 4-foot long skull of a young T. Rex. Connected to the skull were vertebrae, ribs, hips and lower jaw bones of what is speculated to be a 15-year-old T. Rex that died 66 million years ago.
The young dinosaur may not have made much of an impact when it was alive, but its discovery is a big deal today’s paleontology world, according to Jack Horner, former curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies and current Burke Museum research associate.
Having seen the 'Tufts-Love Rex' during its excavation I can attest to the fact that it is definitely one of the most significant specimens yet found, and because of its size, is sure to yield important information about the growth and possible eating habits of these magnificent animals.
Tufts-Love Rex is big in size – about 85 percent of the size of the largest known T. Rex skeleton. The exact size isn’t known yet because the skull is still partially inside the rock it was discovered in. The rock and skull were removed and encased in plaster before being shipped to the Burke Museum where it and other fossils from the dig will be on display from now through October 2nd. After that, one team will remove the plaster and work on getting the skull out of the stone intact while a second team will return to Hell Creek and continue to excavate the remainder of Tufts-Love Rex.
Tufts-Love Rex is truly a great discovery. If you don’t like the name, go find your own.