Welcome to the Tropics, Sue!

November 13, 2009

The world’s largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur comes to Costa Rica this month.

Sue – the 67-million-year-old dinosaur discovered in 1990 by a fossil hunter named Sue, of course, in the United States – will be on display at the new real estate complex on Avenida Escazú, next to Hospital Cima, in Escazú, west of San José, from Nov. 15 until mid-February 2010.

Sue’s old bones have so far made 51 stops in countries throughout the world and have been seen and appreciated by more than six million people.

The dinosaur is part of a traveling exhibition organized by The Field Museum, in Chicago, Illinois, in the U.S. The museum bought Sue in 1997 at auction for $8.4 million dollars – a record sum for a fossil.

Museum manager Amy Bornkamp acknowledged that the price tag was extraordinary, but she insisted that the money spent was well worth it.

“This fossil is invaluable,” she said.

As well as exhibiting the animal’s skeleton, made up of nearly 300 bones, organizers will invite visitors to view animated scans of the skull and touch a variety of casts of Sue’s bones, including a rib, a forelimb and a tooth. It promises to be quite an educational experience for the dinosaur-viewing public.

The fossil was discovered when the van in which a commercial fossil-collecting team was traveling broke down on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

While most of the team went into town to get parts and take a break from the heat, Sue Hendrickson stayed behind to look for fossils.

Hiking over some sandstone bluffs that had previously caught her attention, she spotted bone fragments on the ground and scanned the cliffs above to see from where they had fallen. Jutting out from one of the cliffs were huge dinosaur bones, confirmed by the returning team as those belonging to a T-Rex.

The bones immediately became the center of a legal dispute over ownership. That tug-of war took five years to resolve. The judge ruled that the dinosaur belonged to the rancher who owned the land on which the bones were found. His decision to sell the fossil at public auction netted him $8.4 million.

Before Sue’s skeleton could be displayed, each of the 200-plus bones had to be prepared by a team of skilled technicians.

Each fossilized bone had to be removed from the rocky matrix that surrounded it before it could be cleaned and repaired.

The FieldMuseum workers spent more than 25,000 hours preparing Sue’s bones. Approximately 3,500 hours were spent on the skull alone.

Since the first T-rex specimen was found in 1900, only seven skeletons that are more than half intact have been discovered. Of those, Sue is the best preserved.

Sixty-seven million years after her death it is still possible to see the fine details showing where muscles, tendons and other soft tissues rested against or attached to the bone.

Visit Sue on Mon.-Fri., noon to 7 p.m., and Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Price of admission is ¢6,000 ($11) for adults and ¢4,000 ($7) for children. For more information, call Jennifer Hidalgo at 2589-2828.

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