One of the world’s largest T. rex skeletons just landed in Melbourne

For the first time, Melbourne is hosting a fully articulated skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

The monstrous skeleton, aptly named Victoria, is taking pride of place in the state capital of the same name’s Melbourne Museum in an exhibition which opened to the public on Friday.

It measures 12.1 metres in length and 3.7m high, making Victoria one of the 5 largest T. rex skeletons in the world. The skull alone is 139kg. It is among hundreds of other fossilised bones which make up the T. rex which is estimated to be about 52% complete – remarkably high for a T. rex or any dinosaur.

T rex skeleton at melbourne museum
“Victoria” the T. rex at Melbourne Museum. Credit: Evrim Yazgin.

But the animal’s fossil skull has been replaced on the articulated skeleton by a replica. The real skull is in a glass cabinet on show in another part of the exhibition.

“It’s the part of the experience, in some ways, that I find the most transfixing, because you can meet the eye of this animal,” says Tim Ziegler, collection manager of vertebrate palaeontology at the Melbourne Museum. “It’s enormous, and you feel the threat.”

Palaeontologist looks up at t rex skeleton at melbourne museum
Tim Ziegler with Victoria. Credit: Evrim Yazgin.

“It has binocular vision. It is looking at you as much as you are looking at it.”

“You can see many of these internal bones in the temporals in the back going up to the the roof of the mouth pallet,” Ziegler adds. “It’s extremely rare to have materials paper thin as much as this is, to have that preserved, and to be stable enough that you can display it to the public.”

Ziegler points out a possible infection in the lower jaw of the animal. He says T. rex are known to have bitten other T. rex – whether during mating or fighting.

“There’s a region of loss that appears to be the result of disease, damage to the bone, possibly sepsis. They must have had an incredible immune system as well. Who’s to say whether that was a disaster or just part of the daily life of this massive animal.”

The skull also preserves facial foramina – small holes at the tip of the snout, similar to those that can be seen on crocodilians today.

“Those are obviously providing a lot of nutrition, blood and nerve endings through to the face. It’s a good indicator that there’s quite a lot of facial sensitivity, potentially for sensation, potentially to support novel skin coverings that might have been brightly coloured or changed colour when flushed with blood.”

T rex skull at melbourne museum
Skull of “Victoria”. Credit: Evrim Yazgin.

Also in a separate glass case is Victoria’s left femur.

“This doesn’t look very comfortable right now. It’s experienced a huge amount of crushing and distortion,” says Ziegler, adding this is due to movements of the earth in which it has been encased for 66 million years.

Victoria is among the best preserved T. rex individuals ever found. The fossils were uncovered in 2013–14 in the US state of South Dakota. Despite being displayed in the Victorian state capital in Australia, the T. rex specimen was actually named after the Dino Lab in Victoria, Canada where it was restored.

T rex femur at melbourne museum
Victoria’s femur. Credit: Evrim Yazgin.

Ziegler says that Victoria’s size and bone fusion indicates it was a mature individual. It is believed that larger, bulkier T. rex like Victoria were female, but the specimen’s sex is not currently known.

The only other time a real T. rex fossil was displayed in Australia was back in 1996 in Sydney. But Victoria is bigger and more well preserved.

The exhibition showcasing Victoria at the Melbourne Museum will be open to the public until 20 October 2024.

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