Found at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, on property owned by a rancher who was part Sioux, Sue - the T. rex dinosaur - was at the center of a huge legal battle. The issue: Who owned the creature?
In the end, the court found the United States government held the South Dakota land in trust for Maurice Williams, the rancher. He, in turn, auctioned Sue to the highest bidder - the Field Museum and its partners. At the time, it was the most money ever paid for a fossil: nearly $8.4 million.
Sue’s 5-foot skull is enormous and heavy. It cannot be displayed with the rest of the skeleton. Instead, a replica sits atop the dinosaur’s fossilized bones while the skull itself is encased, with teeth in place, inside a special glass container. Some of Sue’s teeth are more than a foot long!
Although the brain of this massive dinosaur was not fossilized, its braincase was in remarkably good shape. Scientists have determined Sue’s brain was about a foot (or 30.5 centimeters) long. Scans of Sue’s skull, taken by Boeing’s computerized tomography machine, have allowed scientists to create a digitized version.
Studying Sue is an ongoing job since the dinosaur was 90% complete when Hendrickson found it. With articulated bones - meaning they were together in the body, not separated and strewn about - the world’s most famous T. rex is 41 feet long and 13-feet high at the hip. That’s a lot of parts to study!
Among other things, Sue surprised paleontologists on two key points. Adult T. rex dinosaurs ran more slowly than scientists first believed. And ... they had an astonishing sense of smell. Each of Sue’s olfactory bulbs were bigger than its cerebrum (the thinking part of the brain).
Sue (whose sex cannot be determined) has given scientists much more knowledge than they previously had regarding the fearsome T. rex. But no one can tell why Sue died.