Imagine hunting around the landscape of Montana for a small fossil or two and discovering a nearly complete T. rex skeleton. This is what happened for Kathy Wankel and her family on a hike in 1988. Wankel recalls, “I said, ‘I think I found a megafind!’ I don’t a human had ever seen those bones before.”
But how had the Wankel T. rex—also called ‘the Nation’s T. rex’ and MOR555—been preserved mostly-intact for 66 million years? From The Washington Post:
A long time ago, in a part of this state that is now arid desert but was then humid swampland, an egg hatched. It was the beginning of an epoch-spanning life story that continues still, beginning a new chapter this week in the nation’s capital.
The egg is long gone. The skin and muscle of the animal that climbed out of it — 38 feet long and six tons once it grew — are history (or prehistory). But when it died on the banks of a creek after 18 good years at the top of the food chain, its bones settled into the enveloping mud. The current teased away the flesh, pushed its skull a few feet downstream, shifted a shoulder blade.
But more sediment filtered down, locking the skeleton in a geologic hug that would go unbroken — through 66 million winters, the collision of continents, the rise of mammals — until just before 9 a.m. on Labor Day in 1988, when Kathy Wankel caught a glimpse of that shoulder blade.
Watch more Tyrannosaurus rex videos on TKSST, including How Do You Dismantle a Dino? (Very Carefully), rebuilding a real T. Rex with scientific research & new tech, and what did a baby T.rex look like?
Plus: More paleontology videos.