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Information for News Media & Reporters
The Story: Here you can find all of the press releases we have posted about UnearthingT.rex so far. Not only Who, What, When, Where, but also the breaking news - soon after it happens. Our mission is to provide you with the information you need to fully cover this dig event - and its use of this site as well.
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Download this release: http://www.unearthingtrex.com/press/WyrexRelease-6.8.04.pdf
For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Larson or Marion Zenker
T. rex Dig Breaks New Groundin science and online
A South Dakota fossil company may again have made scientific history. Last month, Black Hills Institute dug its eighth Tyrannosaurus rex, a specimen that has revealed a hand bone never before reported with T. rex.
“The bone would have been enclosed within the palm, and it may be the remnant of a vestigial third finger,” Institute President Peter Larson said. “T. rex is famous for its two-fingered hand, but more primitive meat-eating dinosaurs had three fingers.”
After examining the end of the small bone, where a finger could have attached, Larson believes it is unlikely, although not impossible, that an undersized finger existed in T. rex. Still, the presence of this new bone, along with the first reported complete wrist bone (ulnare) found for this species, makes the specimen scientifically significant.
The fossil, known as “Wyrex,” also made headlines with its companion Web site, www.unearthingtrex.com, the first scientific effort to publish on a daily basis the events of a real paleontological excavation. From start to finish, documentation of the process was offered online via video, audio, photographs, slideshows, mapping diagrams, and scientific explanations. Virtual visitors could delve into paleontology, geology, T. rex anatomy and behaviorand, of course, the Wyrex excavation as it unfolded. The Web site also told the human-interest stories of the team in the field.
“We loved being able to correspond right from the dig site with people all over the United States, and from other countries,” Larson said. “Parents wrote in for four-year-olds, scientists debated theories, and dino groupies got totally into it. Each evening when we came in from the excavation, we answered questions. It was great!”
While the excavation was active, the Web site inspired a peak daily page view count of 44,000, with downloading of information by site visitors at an average of 1.5 gigabytes per day. CNN, National Geographic News, USA Today, National Review, and “Wild Side News,” among others, all provided links to Unearthing T. rex.
Wyrex was named after Don Wyrick, the rancher on whose Montana ranch the specimen was discovered. He and Dan Wells, an amateur fossil collector from Minneapolis, together found the T. rex in 2002. Because of how Wyrex was preserved, its overall scientific significance will not be known until it has been fully prepared, a process that has already started in the Institute’s Hill City laboratory.
“Because the specimen is, to a large degree, enclosed in very hard rock, only about one-third was visible in the field, and a lot of tantalizing details remain hidden,” Larson said. “Although we won’t know the exact completeness of the specimen until it has been prepared, we can estimate that it is in the neighborhood of fifty percent complete. I can tell you already that Wyrex falls well within the top ten T. rex specimens ever.”
And if Wyrex turns out to be more than fifty percent complete, it will rank higher. To estimate a specimen’s completeness, Larson counts the bones and does some simple math. Using this method, everyone agrees that only two Tyrannosaurus rex specimens surpass the fifty-percent mark: Sue (80%) and Stan (70%) (both of which also were collected by Larson’s company). Three other specimens hover around fifty percent.
“It is possible that Wyrex is the third-most complete T. rex ever found,” Larson optimistically added. “We’ve already seen parts from the skull, tail, pelvis, legs, feet, ribs, body, neck, shoulder, and hand.”
The company, on behalf of the landowners, will seek a permanent museum home for the specimen. News on Wyrex’s preparation and future home will be updated regularly on www.unearthingtrex.com.
“More than anything in the world, I want to see it up,” co-discoverer Dan Wells said. “I want to see it…where it can be exhibited for a long period of time.”
The whole processfrom the Wyrex discovery to the World Wide Webhas been an eye-opener for Don Wyrick. He has watched the ground on his ranch for more than ten years, “realizing the importance of...these old bones.” He’s going to keep looking for more. “In this country, new bones will be showing up for years,” he said.
Download this release: http://www.unearthingtrex.com/press/UnearthingTrex-5.5.04.pdf
For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Larson, Marion Zenker, or Larry Shaffer
T. rex dig goes online
For the first time ever, the whole world is invited to a Tyrannosaurus rex excavation virtually, that is. Starting May 10, students in classrooms, scientists in laboratories, and everyone with access to the internet can tune in to the excavation of what may be one of the three best T. rex specimens ever uncovered.
“This dinosaur's great promise comes from the arrangement of its exposed parts,” explained Peter Larson, President of Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota, and veteran of seven previous T. rex excavations. “Already we can see that its tail, one leg, and the pelvis are articulated, still connected as they were in life. Since these bones are leading underground, there is a very good chance that this dinosaur is relatively complete. But we won't know for sure until we dig it out.”
Those who wish to watch the uncovering of this exciting new find can do so by logging on to www.unearthingtrex.com, a Web site that will be updated daily from the field. The crew will utilize video, photographs, slide shows, an interactive bone map, and other means to illustrate exactly what they're seeing. This site will provide a unique opportunity for visitors to experience first hand an ongoing dinosaur excavation almost as if they were there in person.
“We will post each day what bones were found, what new pieces of scientific evidence were uncovered, and whatever interesting questions or problems we come up with,” Larson said. “Plus, Web site visitors can send us comments, take part in a discussion forum, or ask the opinions of a panel of experts who will be communicating with us as the dig progresses.”
The Web site also will include supporting information about T. rex, including facts and theories about the animal's behavior and anatomy, along with the history of paleontology and stories about the colorful people who have populated this science for hundreds of years.
The idea of taking a Web crew to an Institute dig site was developed by Larry Shaffer, the Institute's resident computer guru. He is currently fine-tuning the supporting content information, and will have the Web site fully operable by May 10, the day the crew will arrive at the dig site.
“The Institute has decades of experience in the field, including excellent supporting documentation and photography,” Shaffer said. “I am working to create visually interesting, dynamic, and interactive media that will be suitable for all ages and levels of knowledge.”
“With modern computer technology, this is the first time anyone has been able to offer something like this,” Larson added. “Larry and his team will be documenting the dig moment by moment. It will be a new experience for all of us to be able to share the excitement of discovery with people all over the world, as it's happening.”
Black Hills Institute was chosen to excavate the fossil because of its position as the world's largest private fossil company. In addition, Larson is considered one of paleontology's experts on Tyrannosaurus rex. He has published scientific papers on the creature ever since the company excavated Sue, the world's largest and most famous T. rex, in 1990. The owners of the land where the new specimen was found hope that the Institute will help them place the fossil in a museum for permanent display.
“This specimen could be extremely important scientifically. Preliminary evidence suggests that this Tyrannosaurus rex could be killer,” Larson said, his excitement evident. “Such a fossil could easily anchor a world class museum collection.”
The two most complete T. rex specimens, both collected by the Institute, SUE at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, and STAN at Black Hills Institute in Hill City, are about 80 and 70 percent complete, respectively; the next best fall in the 50 percent range. Larson hypothesizes that the new T. rex, located in eastern Montana, could rank high on the list.
He also anticipated the questions that such an excavation could answerand which would be posted on the Web site as evidence mounts. These include: What happened during this dinosaur's life? What injuries and diseases did it have? Is it a boy or girl? What was its last meal? How did it die? Was its carcass fed upon, and if so, by whom?
Larson added that he hopes the fossil's special preservationin “the right stuff,” fine siltstonewill shed light on some cutting-edge T. rex mysteries, such as what this extinct creature's skin was like, or whether this largest terrestrial carnivore had feathers. Also, each new, relatively complete T. rex might help scientists determine if what we think of as T. rex was instead two similar species.
“We're really excited that schools will still be in session during this dig, because kids often ask wonderful questions that open up new fields of study,” Larson said. “If they check us out each day, they'll see the scientific process in action, and the methods paleontologists use to dig fossils in the field. Then, by using the Web site, they'll also be able to contribute to the study of this new dinosaur.”
Feel free to link to the following images, or copy them to your site to help spread word. The link should be http://www.unearthingtrex.com.