Sue: Rediscovered

A Closer Look at the Most Complete T. rex Provides Evidence Sue was a Survivor 

by David A. Board

A broken leg. A broken arm. Two broken ribs. Deformed back bones and jaw lesions. Sounds like a recipe for one very grumpy T. rex.

In fact, the most famous of all Tyrannosaurs, "Sue," suffered from all these ailments-and apparently survived them as well.

So says a new report presented at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's annual meeting. The paper was authored by paleontologists Elizabeth Rega of Western University of Heath Sciences in Pomona, California, and Chris Brochu formerly with the Chicago Field Museum and now at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Sue is owned and exhibited by the Field Museum.

Sue survived her injuries to die of old age or some other less violent cause.

For all her misfortunes, there's some suggestion Sue's family relations were more cordial than previously thought. Pits in Sue's jaws that were previously attributed to bites from another T. rex are now thought to be microbe-induced lesions. Such marks are common in other T. rex fossils, the researchers note. Furthermore, the pits are not aligned with one another as might be expected if they were caused by rows of teeth in the jaw an adversarial T. rex.

Reinforcing a rosy image of her family life is evidence Sue survived her injuries to die of old age or some other less violent cause. This suggests the big meat eater had help in the form of a mate or some sort of pack structure to support her during the healing of her broken bones.

Sue's cracked ribs healed in a poorly aligned position. Rega and Brochu surmise this was due to the ribs' position near the lungs which caused them to be constantly dislocated as the huge dinosaur breathed in and out. Probably these injuries in particular were very painful.

That Sue survived her traumas at all is a testament to her durability. "The clear evidence of healing indicated that Sue was a robust individual who successfully survived many insults."

Related Links:

Sue at the Field Museum 
The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 

(Outside links open in a new window)

 


Sculpture by Brian Cooley
Photo Courtesy of The Field Museum

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