Montana State University

Public invited to join April 11 send-off for Wankel T. rex

April 4, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu

BOZEMAN – The Wankel T. rex will head to Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 11, and the public is invited to join the send-off celebration for one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever discovered.

The free festivities will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies. Activities will include a hot dog picnic and appearances by several dignitaries and the museum’s mascot, Rocky Rex. A caravan through Main Street Bozeman will begin around 2 p.m. A FedEx truck carrying the boxed-up Wankel T. rex will have a police escort and be joined by dignitaries, an antique bus from Yellowstone National Park and paleontology vehicles from the Museum of the Rockies.

The Wankel T. rex – discovered in 1988 by Kathy Wankel of Angela – is scheduled to arrive April 15 in Washington, D.C., where it’s expected to become the most viewed T. rex fossil in the world. The skeleton will be displayed in a new paleontology exhibit scheduled to open in 2019 in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, which has more than 7 million visitors a year. The Wankel T. rex – on loan to the Smithsonian -- will be the centerpiece of its new $35 million dinosaur hall.

At the end of the 50-year loan, the skeleton will return to Montana.  In the meantime, the Museum of the Rockies is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to mount another federal T. rex specimen in its Siebel Dinosaur Complex. That dinosaur, known as the Peck’s Rex, is as complete a skeleton as the Wankel T. rex.

The Wankel T. rex skeleton was found on federal land near the Fort Peck Reservoir and excavated in 1989-90 by field crews led by Jack Horner, now Regents Professor of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies.  The skeleton was prepared in public view, studied extensively and ultimately displayed in its original “death pose” in the museum’s Hall of Horns and Teeth in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex.

 In 2001, the Wankel T. rex was cast in bronze and placed near the front entrance of the museum. The bronze skeleton, nicknamed “Big Mike,” has since become a popular photo opportunity for tourists. 

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu