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T. Rex Travels by FedEx, a First for Dino Fossils

FedEx truck carrying the skeleton of a T. Rex dinosaur. In the foreground is a bronze replica of the 65-million-year-old skeleton discovered in 1988. Photo courtesy of Kelly Gorham and Montana State University.

WASHINGTON, DC — A FedEx truck backed up to a dock at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. yesterday morning and delivered something the museum has not had in 150 years: a nearly complete fossilized T. Rex dinosaur.

The T. Rex bones travelled 3,700 km from Bozeman, Montana to Washington in a semi that read: “Delivering history: The Nation’s T. Rex,” next to a painted Tyrannosaurus Rex and was followed by a police escort.

“This is a first for us so we’re very excited,” Katie Wassmer, a spokesperson for FedEx, told Popular Mechanics. “We’ve shipped parts of fossils and even parts of the Titanic when it was going through a museum exposition, but never a full skeleton.” 

But it’s not just any skeleton. The nearly 65-million-year-old dino is one of the largest and most complete T. Rex skeletons ever discovered.

So how do you pack a dinosaur?

Each bone – and there are over 200 of them – is placed into an individual cradle, stuffed with padding and put into a custom-built crate with other padded cradles holding other bones. It took 16 crates and 48-hours to deliver the T. Rex to its new home in Washington.

The truck had to be climate-controlled and maintained at room temperature and was monitored by satellite surveillance around the clock.

“We knew we wanted to transport it in the company of people all the time because we wanted to control the ride and the conditions inside the transport,” Dr. Matthew Carrano, the curator of Dinosauria at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, told the CBC.  

The biggest bones, Carrano said, are the hip bones, which are still attached. They are six to seven feet long and weigh about 500 lbs. In total, the dinosaur stretches to about 38-feet long and weighs a bit over 5 tons. 

Why this T. Rex is special:

  • It’s the first known specimen to have its forelimbs (arms) intact, proving the T. Rex had small arms, with two fingers each, like on Jurassic Park;
  • It’s one of several dinosaurs where scientists first discovered soft tissue, which helped them learn about the animals’ growth cycle;
  • Is 85 percent complete, one of the most complete T. Rex specimens to be found – it’s missing some pieces of its tail and leg;
  • It died young, at age 18.

The T. Rex was handled by FedEx Custom Critical, a branch of FedEx designed to ship unconventional payloads. 

Email Editor

wow this is amazing knowing that im going to dc this summer

I think they have hauled a Dino full skeleton before, I hauled it in 2008. Los Angeles to Patterson, NJ. Not a T rex though.