VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY: A Boy Named Sue?

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Science  02 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5620, pp. 703a
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5620.703a

Although the theropod Tyrannosaurus rex is extremely popular, with a name and shape (huge head, massive tail, bipedal) that are recognized by innumerable 5-year olds, the scarcity of its remains has handicapped our understanding of the species. The combination of popularity and scarcity has made T. rex material very valuable, and none more so than the large, nearly complete, and well-preserved specimen known as “Sue.” The tale of its 1990 discovery in the badlands of South Dakota, the disputes over its ownership, and its eventual purchase by the Field Museum of Natural History have been covered in various media (including multiple books).

Brochu and Ketcham offer a detailed bone-by-bone description of the taxon. High-resolution x-ray computed tomographic analysis reveals previously unknown aspects of the skull. The monograph and accompanying CD include profuse illustrations of skeletal elements, orthogonal slices, and three-dimensional reconstructions. Sue's morphology is largely congruent with those of other specimens, and most of the observed differences seem pathological. Contrary to earlier speculations, the individual was not bitten by another theropod or hobbled by its abnormal left fibula, and its sex cannot be determined.—ShJS

J. Vertebr. Paleo. 22 (4), suppl. (2003).

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