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PALEONEWS: Millions of Years and Millions of Dollars Later, T. Rex Unveiled

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Millions of Years and Millions of Dollars Later, T. Rex Unveiled

CHICAGO (AP) -- Sixty-five million years after she stalked the Earth, a
Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue was on her feet again, crouched with her
tail stretched out behind her. 

Hundreds of children and onlookers who packed into the main hall of the
Field Museum of Natural History stared in awe today as a curtain dropped
to reveal the largest, most complete and best-preserved T. rex skeleton
ever discovered.  

"It was a grand entrance," Mayor Richard Daley said after a chamber
orchestra played the specially commissioned "Tyrannosaurus Sue: A
Cretaceous Concerto" by composer Bruce Adolphe. 

The 41-foot-long skeleton -- named for Sue Hendrickson, the fossil
hunter who found it in 1990 -- is one of the most talked about and
debated fossil finds in history. 

Sue cost the museum $8.36 million at an auction that had been delayed
for years by a legal battle with the federal government, the Sioux
Indian tribe and a rancher all claiming ownership. 

Federal agents seized the bones in 1992, claiming the fossil hunters
failed to get a federal permit to dig for them on the rancher's land
located inside the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. After a $7 million
investigation, the government found no crime but prosecuted Hendrick's
partner Peter Larson on currency violation charges involving overseas
fossil sales. 

A court eventually declared the rancher the fossil's rightful owner, and
Sue was auctioned in 1997. After a 10-minute bidding frenzy, the Field
Museum bought it for $8.36 million, criticized as an outrageous sum. 

To cover Sue's cost, the Field took on McDonald's and Disney as
partners. Both get exclusive rights to casts of Sue's bones. 

"Sue has waited for this for a long time," Hendrickson said. 

By any measure, the skeleton is big -- 13 feet tall at the hips, 41 feet
long and teeth as long as a human forearm. 

The museum is displaying "her" (scientists aren't sure whether Sue was
male or female) in the main hall. A lightweight cast replaces the
one-ton skull on the skeleton because that real one is too heavy. It's
displayed in a nearby case. 

"I thought it was going to be bigger, but it is very complete," said
Jared Dickerson, a seventh-grader who won a trivia contest to get an
invitation to the unveiling. "The coolest thing is knowing how fast and
big it was. And I heard it could eat a whole human in two bites." 

On the Net: Field Museum: www.fmnh.org 

Flying Goat Graphics
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)