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'Nation's T. Rex' Arrives At Smithsonian

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Unveiling the "Nation's T. Rex" at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Left to right: museum director Kirk Johnson, Kathy and Tom Wankel, who discovered the fossils, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, posing with the dinosaur's right femur.
Jacob Fenston/WAMU
Unveiling the "Nation's T. Rex" at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Left to right: museum director Kirk Johnson, Kathy and Tom Wankel, who discovered the fossils, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, posing with the dinosaur's right femur.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has a new resident: A five-ton Tyrannosaurus Rex that just arrived from Montana.

For 66 million years, the T. Rex was buried near a river bed in eastern Montana. Then in 1988, Kathy Wankel and her family were on a hike when they stumbled across something sticking out of the rock and dirt.

"It was whitish grey and it had chips coming off of it, just like if you had found a chicken bone, kind of half buried," Wankel said.

It was a T. Rex arm bone, and one of the best dinosaur finds ever. The T. Rex skeleton is 85 percent complete, among the top five T. Rexes ever discovered. The dinosaur was named in Wankle's honor, but today it was rechristened "the Nation's T. Rex."

The T. Rex arrived from it's previous home in Montana in a giant FedEx truck. Inside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the dinosaur, which has been dead for some 66 million years, got a hearty welcome from the crowd, and museum director Kirk Johnson.

"We're unveiling MOR 555, also known as the Wankle Rex, also known as the Nation's T. Rex," Johnson said.

Now begins the months-long process of unpacking, cataloguing, and scanning each of the 220 bones.

Museum visitors can observe that process, starting today. The entire skeleton will go on display in 2019, after a museum renovation.

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