published : 2023-08-21

The Thrilling Tale of 'Sue', the Most Complete T-Rex Fossil Ever Found

Unearthing the story behind 'Sue', the magnificent dinosaur whose gender remains a mystery

Sue Hendrickson carefully excavating the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil from the eroded bluff in South Dakota, her face showing a mix of concentration and delight. Taken with a Nikon D850.

On a fateful day in August 1990, the world's largest and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil, fondly known as 'Sue', was discovered, marking a momentous event in the annals of history.

Despite its feminine name, intriguingly, it remains undetermined whether 'Sue' the T. rex was a male or female dinosaur.

This moniker was derived from Sue Hendrickson, the noteworthy explorer who stumbled upon the fossil during a commercial excavation trip near Faith, South Dakota.

The story takes an exciting twist as Hendrickson had spotted a few large vertebrae poking out from an eroded bluff, which led her to believe that more fossils might be hidden nearby— a presumption that proved accurate.

The extraction process, an arduous task, involved six people working tirelessly over a span of 17 days to carefully unshroud the dinosaur’s bones.

A close up shot of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton named 'Sue' in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet at the Field Museum, highlighting the massive structure of the dinosaur. Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Standing proudly at over 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip bone, Sue, having approximately 90% of known bones in a T. rex skeleton, becomes the most significant discovery of its kind in paleontology.

The distinguished Field Museum in Chicago, making headlines, claimed Sue as its most celebrated resident.

Providing insights into the T. rex's evolutionary relationships, biology, growth, and behavior, Sue has significantly contributed to advanced research and studies conducted by scientists worldwide.

Since 2018, Sue has been permanently stationed at the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet in the Field Museum, a salute to its historical legacy.

Due to its impressively near-complete state, replicas of Sue's skeleton have been created for both research purposes and for public displays.

A child in awe, pointing at the Dino-Sue replica on display at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, capturing the sense of wonder and excitement that Sue brings. Taken with a Sony α7R IV.

One such replica, affectionately named 'Dino-Sue', is showcased at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

Sue's acquisition, however, wasn't straightforward; it involved a five-year custody battle among various interested parties.

Finally, in 1998, the Field Museum succeeded in procuring Sue, thanks to the financial backing of McDonald's Corporation, the Walt Disney World Resort and other private donors, amounting to a monumental $8.4 million expenditure.

This acquisition marked the most significant sum paid for a fossil until 2020 when another T. rex named 'Stan', surpassed it when a museum in Abu Dhabi shelled out an astonishing $31.8 million.

Beyond its physical presence, Sue also exists virtually on the social media platform, X, delighting followers with pulsating dinosaur puns.