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Rieppel: Fossil Skull Offers Different Insights into T. rexAired May 17, 2000 - 1:24 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Chicago is welcoming a 65 million-year-old guest today, a big-boned newcomer named "Sue."
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Sue is the best preserved, most complete T. rex skeleton ever found, this is a fascinating story.
And CNN's Jeff Flock is at the Field Museum of natural history, where Sue is making his debut -- Jeff.
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and that is -- that's one of the points that they don't know about Sue: Is it a boy or is it a girl? It is named Sue and it is a majestic fossil, 67 million-years-old, as you point out. They just don't know whether it was a boy or a girl. They've named it Sue after the lady who that found it, Sue Hendrickson, who is a noted fossil-hunter and she has never found anything quite like this before.
And we've been giving you perspectives, different perspectives all day long on this, since she was unveiled this morning. And we have pictures that give you a pretty good look at what Sue looked like this morning when the curtain was dropped. Usually it's a curtain raised, but in this case, they dropped the curtain and revealed this amazing fossil.
What makes it so amazing, as I'm joined by Olivier Rieppel, who has been in some sense supervising, looking over this majestic project for the past two years here at the Field Museum. One of the things that makes this so extraordinary is the completeness of it, yes?
OLIVIER RIEPPEL, GEOLOGY CURATOR: That's correct, it's the most complete T. rex that we know and also the biggest one. And for scientific purposes, the completeness is the most important aspect of the specimen.
FLOCK: Tell me what you have learned so far and what you hope to learn in the future?
RIEPPEL: Well, that's a big question that cannot be quickly answered. But I think that we have gained major new insights into the cranial structure of Tyrannosaurus rex with the CT scanning that we did. We have...
FLOCK: As we talk about that, you know, let's take a walk over if we can, to the head. Because, that is -- that -- the head in itself is just an extraordinary thing to find. And we should point out to our viewers that the skull that we see right here now is that: one of the few pieces of this thing that we're seeing that's not the actual part, that's up on the second floor where people can get a little bit of a better look at it and where it's not so heavy that it might compromise this structure. Is that correct? What are we seeing here with this skull?
RIEPPEL: Well, what you see here is a bunch of holes that are difficult to interpret if you're not an expert. There is an eye socket and there is two holes in the -- behind the eye for the muscle attachment. Then there is what is called an antorbital penithra (ph) hole in front of that, and then the external mares (ph). What is important is: bony structures inside this snout. for example, there is a lamina (ph) of bone which some people thought could indicate whether T. rex is a homeo -- is a -- produces his own body heat or whether it is like a lizard,
FLOCK: Warm-blooded, cold-blooded.
RIEPPEL: Warm-blooded, cold-blooded, exactly.
FLOCK: Do you know?
RIEPPEL: No, we don't know for sure. We know that what we had thought could be turpidence (ph) are not in this particular specimen. We don't think T. rex has turpidence, that's something which we learned through CT scanning. But whether that rules out warm- bloodedness, we can't tell.
FLOCK: OK, I want to ask you also about the bones and the preparation of the bones. We have some pictures that kind of give a sense of -- to our viewers what you went through to prepare all of these bones. Two hundred fifty-plus bones were cleaned, the earth of South Dakota taken from them. How big a job was that and how did you finally get to this point right here?
RIEPPEL: Well, it was a huge job. The total of hours that went into preparation of Sue sums up to 30,000. So it's a really major job. But that does not count the mounting of the skeleton which is an entirely different project again and as you can see, it was wonderfully done. So...
FLOCK: I know, but before we get away I want to ask one more thing as we try to inch closer. And it must be gratifying to you to see this many people interested and looking at this dinosaur too.
RIEPPEL: Excuse me, I didn't get your question.
FLOCK: It may be -- it must be gratifying to see how many people...
FLOCK: ... are here today interested.
RIEPPEL: Yes, we are very pleased indeed, yes. FLOCK: And I guess that's the last thing I want to ask you and that's about the mounting. You are in -- you've constructed this in a way that you can remove these bones if you need to, correct?
RIEPPEL: That's correct, because we mounted the original specimen, we must make sure that we can make the original bones available for investigation and for that purpose.
FLOCK: Olivier, thank you so much, I appreciate the time.
That is the latest here, Lou, an extraordinary fossil.
Back to you.
WATERS: Thanks, Jeff.
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