SUE the T. Rex Is Moving - Atlas Obscura
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SUE the T. Rex Is Moving

We interviewed everyone’s favorite murderbird about their new digs.

SUE watches as a couple of mammals prepare for some foot removal.
SUE watches as a couple of mammals prepare for some foot removal. All photos courtesy The Field Museum

SUE the T. Rex doesn’t move much. The self-described “cursed/enchanted dinosaur corpse” spent about 67 million years buried in a streambed in South Dakota before paleontologists eventually got to them. In the 18 years since they arrived at Chicago’s Field Museum, they’ve stood stock-still most days, posing for their many fans—although they are quite active on Twitter, where they maintain an extremely funny and popular feed.

So yesterday was a very exciting day: With the help of their human handlers, SUE began relocating to “a private suite” upstairs. The move will make room for a new museum acquisition: a cast of Patagotitan mayorum, aka the titanosaur, the largest dinosaur known to humankind. It will also give museum employees a chance to check up on the bones’ condition, and to do things like scrub off the bird droppings that have collected on the back vertebrae.

A T. Rex toe bone, up close.
A T. Rex toe bone, up close.

And when reassembly occurs next spring, SUE will be reunited with their gastralia, a set of rib-like appendages that likely helped T. Rexes breathe. (When the skeleton was originally assembled, no one knew what the gastralia were for, or where on the body they should go.)

From the human standpoint, it’s all going well so far. “We got the feet off yesterday,” says William Simpson, the paleontologist in charge of the Field Museum’s fossil vertebrate collections. “The hardest part will be getting the first piece of the base apart. Once we do that, it’s sort of like dominoes.” He expects disassembly to take between three and four weeks.

Of course, the humans aren’t the ones being taken apart piece by piece! So we took a moment to ask SUE how they’re feeling, below.

SUE in their old location.
SUE in their old location.

Congratulations on the move! Why did you decide to switch things up?

Thanks! I’ve been rallying to get some updates for a while. Science has advanced quite a bit in the twenty-eight years since I’ve been discovered, and eighteen since I’ve arrived at The Field Museum here in Chicago.

For instance, our team of paleontologists have a much better idea about my appearance based on computer modeling that wasn’t available in 2000. So over the next year, I’ll be resting in my new throne room just off The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet while the primates set up my new suite.

Are you nervous about getting disassembled?

I was covered by thirty tons of South Dakota for 67 million years, so this is incredibly gentle by that standard. I’m still sort of afraid of the dark. Don’t tell anyone.

Are you excited to get your gastralia back, and to get a new pose?

Very much so, yes. I’m one of the only Tyrannosaurus rex specimens to be found with my gastralia. And new discoveries of other tyrannosaurids since then have given the mammals studying me better ideas about how my gastralia were oriented and how they helped me breathe.

A footless SUE.
A footless SUE.

How do you feel about the imminent arrival of the titanosaur? Can we expect a robust social media presence from them as well?

I’m psyched to meet my new Argentinian pal. But I think their social media presence might be limited to posing in other people’s selfies. There’s only room for one tweetin’ dinosaur in this town.

Anything you’d like to say to your many fans at Atlas Obscura?

I love Atlas Obscura! And your readers are so well traveled and sophisticated. If y’all can find time to squeeze in a trip to Chicago in 2019 for my re-unveiling between your “Polish salt mine cathedral” excursions and “Mongolian ger” campouts, I’m sure you will find me to be a gracious host. You know. For someone who is very, very, very dead.