- The Tyrannosaurus rex has captivated the public imagination ever since the "king of the dinosaurs" ate its way onto the scene in "Jurassic Park."
- But when Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster was being made, paleontologists didn’t really know much about the T. rex. Only seven or eight skeletons existed in the fossil record.
- Since then, a dozen more T. rex skeletons have been found, which has changed our understanding of these creatures.
- The American Museum of Natural History has created the world’s most accurate depiction of what T. rex looked like in a new exhibit about the iconic dinosaur.
If your image of the Tyrannosaurus rex is based on the ferocious creature in "Jurassic Park," you’ve gotten quite a few things wrong about the king of the dinosaurs.
In recent years, paleontologists have been revising the scientific consensus about how the T. rex looked, sounded, and ate.
"Everyone’s preconceived ideas of what T. rex acted like and looked like are going to be heavily modified," Mark Norell, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), told Business Insider. The museum just opened an exhibit devoted to the infamous dino, called "T. rex: The Ultimate Predator."
The exhibit showcases the most up-to-date research on the prehistoric animal. And as it turns out, these predators started their lives as fuzzy, turkey-sized hatchlings. They also had excellent vision, with forward facing eyes like a hawk for superior depth perception. And T. rexes couldn’t run; instead, they walked at impressive speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
But to be fair to Steven Spielberg, only seven or eight T. rex skeletons existed in the fossil record when his classic movie was produced in 1993. Since then, a dozen more skeletons have been discovered, and those bones have changed scientists’ understanding of these creatures.
Here’s what the T. rex was really like when she hunted 66 million years ago, according to the experts at the AMNH.
The first T. rex skeleton ever found was discovered in 1902 by paleontologist Barnum Brown of the AMNH.
© AMNH Library 121779
Today, the institution boasts one of the only original T. rex skeletons on public display in the world.
Tyrannosaurus rex — from the Greek words for “tyrant” and “lizard” and the Latin word for “king” — lived between 68 and 66 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period (just before the asteroid impact that ended the era of the dinosaurs).
The T. rex rocked a mullet of feathers on its head and neck, and some on its tail, too.
Illustration by Zhao Chuang/courtesy of PNSO
Feathers are rarely preserved in the fossil record, so they haven’t been found yet on a T. rex specimen. But other dinosaur fossils, including other Tyrannosaur species and their relatives, do have preserved feathers.
That means paleontologist can "safely assume" T. rex had feathers as well, Norell said.
Although adult rexes were mostly covered in scales, scientists believe they had patches of feathers on attention-getting areas like the head and tail.
T. rex hatchlings looked more like fluffy turkeys than terrifying predators.
D. Finnin/American Museum of Natural History.
T. rex hatchlings were covered in peach fuzz, much like a duckling. As they aged, they lost most of their feathers, keeping just the ones on the head, neck, and tail.
Most hatchlings didn’t survive past infancy. A baby T. rex had more than a 60% chance of succumbing to predators, disease, accidents, or starvation during its first year of life.
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