Sue, the T-Rex

Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex named after the paleontologist who found it, is one of the most famous fossils and is currently the most complete and well preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Eveworld. Over 90 percent of the T-Rex had been recovered and preserved. Sue is 42 feet long, 13 feet tall, and has 58 teeth. This T-Rex isn’t just famous for being the most whole and preserved T-Rex, but also for the legal battles that ensued after its discovery.

Background

Paleontologists working with Black Hills Institute, a private company in South Dakota that collects and sells fossils, came to Maurice Williams, a rancher, and paid Maurice Williams $5000 to investigate the ranch grounds for any fossils. In 1990, the Black Hills Institute found the most complete T-Rex the world had ever seen on Maurice Williams’ ranch. The paleontologists took three weeks digging up the remains of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and brought it back to try to make a museum, featuring Sue, in Hill City, South Dakota. However, Williams felt that Sue belonged to him. Even though Williams was compensated $5000, there was no written contract and Williams claimed that money was for just digging up his land, but not for Sue. The bones of Sue were seized by the FBI at the University of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology as the custody battle played out. Eventually, the courts ruled that Sue belonged to Williams, taking away Sue; consequently, Williams wanted to auction Sue off. Sotheby’s, the large New York auction company, hosted the auction on October 4, 1997. Initially, Sotheby had estimated that Sue was worth around $1 million. Previously, no fossils had been sold for more than $500,000 to $600,000. The Smithsonian was prepared to pay up to $2.5 million for the precious fossil and competed against museums, casinos, real estate companies, and even an individual who wanted it for a private collection. However, $2.5 million dollars wouldn’t prove to be enough to take Sue to the Smithsonian. After $7.2 million dollars was bidded, the North Carolina Museum of Natural History dropped out, leaving two bidders: the Chicago Field Museum and Jay Islak, a real estate baron from Florida. The real estate baron bumped his bid to 7.5 million dollars and left the Chicago Field Museum with a difficult decision. The museum had arranged $7.5 million dollars as the limit to which it would pay so it seemed that the most well preserved and complete T-Rex was headed to Florida. However, a professional bidder that was working with the Chicago Field Museum advised that the real estate baron was probably at his limit, so one more bid would be enough to take home the prize. Sue came home to the Chicago Field Museum with a bid of $7.6 million! The 10% commission made the total price of Sue $8.3 million dollars.

File:Sue TRex Skull Full Frontal.JPG

By ScottRobertAnselmo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Implications

This event has altered the paleontology landscape forever. Dinosaur fossils now had an extreme amount of value and led to a craze of dinosaur fossil buyers and dinosaur fossil hunters, especially after the airing of Jurassic Park. Duck bill dinosaur fossils weren’t worth too much, a good triceratops fossil could have a value of $1 million, and of course the Tyrannosaurus Rex fetched the most amount of dough. Many paleontologists have not exactly been very happy about this, since many of these fossil hunters are not scientists who do not have the scientific knowledge to handle many of the fossils they find. For example, the rock that the fossil is within, its location, and other aspects provide clues and a better understanding of the fossil. However, many fossil diggers care more about just getting the fossil to sell. In a commercial dig, a lot of information has the potential to be lost. In addition, many paleontologists now found it difficult to work on private lands, since many landowners would be looking to strike it rich by hiring for profit bone diggers instead of paleontologists looking to study the fossils. Other paleontologists also see the upside of it: many more fossils are being excavated now, due to the new market for fossils. This is important, a variety of factors could destroy the fossil remains before we ever get to them, since the fossilization process is so complex and delicate. After Sue, around 50 different Tyrannosaurus Rex specimens have been found, but only a quarter of the specimens are considered nearly complete.

File:Chicago Illinois - Sue the TRex- Field Museum2.jpg

By No machine-readable author provided. J. Nguyen~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Works Cited
Du Lac, J. Freedom. “The Smithsonian T. Rex That Got Away.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
Smith, Stacey V. “The T-Rex in My Backyard.” Audio Blog Post.¬†NPR Money. NPR, October 30, 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2016

 

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