Washington, Aug 19 (IANS) In a major find, paleontologists have discovered a Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil, including a very complete skull, during an expedition to the Hell Creek Formation in the US — an area that is world-famous for its fossil dinosaur sites.
The fossil, which the paleontologists estimate to be about 20 per cent of the now-extinct animal, includes vertebrae, ribs, hips and lower jaw bones.
The T. Rex found by a team of paleontologists with the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and the University of Washington is nicknamed the “Tufts-Love Rex” in honour of the two volunteers who discovered it — Jason Love and Luke Tufts.
“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,” said Burke Museum research associate Jack Horner.
“Because of its size, it is sure to yield important information about the growth and possible eating habits of these magnificent animals,” Horner noted.
The bones’ large size and honeycomb-like structure indicated they belonged to a carnivorous dinosaur.
Upon further excavation, the team, led by University of Washington Biology Professor Gregory Wilson, discovered the T. Rex skull along with ribs, vertebrae, and parts of the jaw and pelvis.
The skull is about four feet long, weighs about 1,134 kg in its protective plaster jacket.
Excavation in the field revealed the right side of the skull from base to snout, including teeth.
The paleontologists believe it is very probable the other side of the skull is present, but will need to carefully remove the rock surrounding the fossil before they can determine its completeness.
T. Rex was one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs to ever roam the Earth. Measuring an average of 40-feet long and 15 to 20-feet tall, T. Rex was a fierce predator with serrated teeth and large jaws.
Fossil evidence shows it ate other dinosaurs like Edmontosaurus and Triceratops, with crushed bones from the animals even showing up in its fossilised poop.
T. Rex lived about 66-68 million years ago in forested river valleys in western North America during the late Cretaceous Period.
Based on the size of its skull, the paleontologists estimated this dinosaur is about 85 per cent the size of the largest T. Rex found to date.
At the hips, the T. Rex would have been nearly as tall as a city bus, and as long as a bus from tail to head, the researchers said.
“We think the Tufts-Love Rex is going to be an iconic specimen for the Burke Museum and the state of Washington and will be a must-see for dinosaur researchers as well,” Wilson said in a university statement.