So long, Sue…. see you upstairs!

by Greg Mayer

Sue, the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex that has inhabited the Field Museum of Natural History‘s Stanley Field Hall since 2000, is coming down. But, shortly after she comes down, she’ll be going up– upstairs that is.  The Museum announced plans last year to replace Sue in Stanley Field Hall with a model of Patagotitan mayorum, a much larger dinosaur than Tyrannosaurus rex. At the same time, they’ll be adding plants and pterosaurs to the Hall. Bill Simpson (who for some reason appears to be being assisted by Ricky Gervais) explains what’s going to happen to her in this video. (And continue watching the next video, also featuring Bill, that comes up after the first finishes.)

A similar model of Patagotitan has been on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York for a couple of years now. It doesn’t even fit in the dinosaur hall there, and its head and neck poke out into the hall way to greet visitors arriving by elevator! Sue will be moving upstairs to the Field’s second floor, whose balconies overlook the Hall, where she’ll join the rest of the dinosaurs in the Evolving Planet exhibit. Sue is a theropod, and though in the same order of dinosaurs as Patagotitan, which was a sauropod, Sue and her kin ate creatures like Patagotitan and its kin.

I had gotten to see Sue up close during the study and preparation phases prior to her being placed on exhibit, and wanted to say farewell (for a little while), so I went down to see her before the deconstruction. These are pictures from a visit in late December.

Sue towers over her human prey admirers in Stanley Field Hall.

Getting closer to Sue’s business end.

The better to eat you with.

The somewhat old-fashioned painted reconstruction on the second floor, overlooking Sue down below. Sue’s skull, which is too heavy to be supported on the body of the mounted skeleton in Stanley Field Hall, has always resided in a separate display case on the second floor balcony, just below this painting.

One of the pterosaurs is already in position.

I went down again last month, and took a few more pictures, mostly closer shots of interesting parts of her anatomy.

A closer view of her teeth.

Her reduced, two-fingered, forelimbs. The functional significance of this feature is much speculated on, but unknown.

Her strong, 4-toed (3 forward, 1 back) hind foot. These provided a powerful mode of locomotion.

Au revoir, Sue!

The tale of how Sue got from South Dakota to the Field Museum is a long and tortuous one, and not very edifying; but that’s a story for another post.

23 Comments

  1. Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Very good. i would like to visit the new Titanosaur. I have seen Sue a couple times.

    The reduced forelimbs is thought to help reduce weight in front, since adult Tyrannosaurs have a really big head. As to their function, I speculate that they were useful for juveniles, but for adults they might just be essentially useless.

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Some have speculated that the short forelimbs came into play during mating.

      • Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        Sure! As claspers or titilators. The vestigial hind limbs of cetaceans and snakes are used as claspers. But that would have also been one of their ancestral functions before they were reduced in size.

      • W.Benson
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps like kiwi wings, the forelegs were simply on the way out.

  2. Christopher
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I hope the new installation will have the same awe-inspiring impact on visitors as Sue has had. There had been a lot of pushback for the removal of Dippy the diplodocus at the London Natural History Museum, and rightly so. As awesome as a blue whale is, they don’t quite have the same presence as a dinosaur, even a well-made cast of one, for the simple reason that (thank ceiling cat) they are not extinct. I can’t wait to return to see the new patagotitan installation!

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Last but one photo: Such elegant feet!

    The little toe [or rear toe] is more prominent than I expected, from my years of viewing T-Rex pics. Perhaps more mature T-Rex have longer little toes? Or ideas have changed. I’ve seen a pic reconstruction with the little toe curving forward – obviously wrong even to me.

  4. rickflick
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I hope I get the opportunity to visit Chicago and see the new exhibit. These creatures from the deep past are awe inspiring. The film, Jurassic Park has nice animations that bring these creatures to life. Even if you don’t care about the plot, the animations were worth seeing. I’d like to see a VR version of those scenes. Maybe they already exist.

  5. Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I saw Sue in about 2008. Hope to get there again in a year or two. Thanks for the pix and info. Waiting to hear how Sue made the trip from South Dakota.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    If there’s any constant in nature, it’s kids’ fascination with dinosaurs. I recall, as soon as I got a drivers license, taking my kid brother to ogle ’em in wonder at the Natural History Museum, and then to make a model Tyrannosaurus in a big old steam-punk-style plastic-injection mold at the souvenir stand, and then, 20 years later, doing the exact same thing with my sons.

    • Paul S
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Love Mold-o-Rama, I have to get one every time I go.

  7. Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I once went on a “Dinotour” with Phil Currie when he was with the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta. Every year he would take a group of about 35 interested folk on a tour of dinosaur-related sites. One of the most interesting parts of the trip was when the group visited a T-Rex in-situ in Saskatchewan. The side of its head was poking out of the dirt and we could see those huge dagger teeth. Something about seeing it in the dirt made it more real. It was a great trip that I will never forget.

  8. Historian
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    The Chicago Tribune has an interesting article on the dismantling Sue. Simpson says that the head is in a separate display not because it is too heavy for the rest of the body, but because it is the most studied body part.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/museums/ct-ae-0205-sue-trex-take-down-htmlstory.html

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I’ve never asked Bill, but the word I received from others around the time of Sue’s arrival and set up was that the skull was too heavy to be placed at the end of the support armature (i.e. it would have required another support pillar). But Bill is a better source than my recollections!

      GCM

  9. glen1davidson
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Just kick her upstairs until retirement.

    Sad end to a proud career.

    Glen Davidson

  10. boggy
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    If this creature was one of those on the Ark, I suggest that they were situated one on the port side and one on the starboard, and both below the waterline.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 20, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      And let’s hope they had plenty of coconuts on board.

      • Christopher
        Posted February 20, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        for reasons one can only guess, this statement led my mind on a meandering path ending in the question: when did external genitalia first appear? Obviously, T-rex did not have a big swingin’ pair of bollocks, but internal organs of generation within a cloaca I imagine, and no, ichthyological claspers don’t count, so who was sporting the first pair of cocoNUTs?* Anybody know?

        *

        • darrelle
          Posted February 20, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          😬

        • glen1davidson
          Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          Judging by birds, male dinosaurs likely had penises. Most birds don’t, actually, but it appears that they were lost in most species (via programmed cell death). That doesn’t show that all or even most terrestrial dinosaurs had penises, but does seem suggestive of that likelihood (and wouldn’t cloacal intercourse seem more than a little awkward and hit-or-miss for the very large dinosaurs, at least?).

          Birds have testes that can withstand high internal body temperatures, so one supposes that other dinosaurs did as well.

          Glen Davidson

  11. Mark R.
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this cool post Greg. Thanks for the Patagotitan mayorum link as well. That was an interesting read…don’t know how I missed that discovery.

  12. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  13. Posted March 1, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I saw Sue a few years back. It’s a shame she’s losing the centre stage, but I’m sure the Patagotitan, plants and Pterosaurs will look absolutely stunning!


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