90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
T-Rex And Montana’s Dinosaur Stories

As a new Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives at the Smithsonian, we’ll look at its home – pre-historic Montana – and the age when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

This undated handout photo, taken in 2001, provided by the Museum of the Rockies shows a bronze cast of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known as the Wankel T.rex, in front of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. (AP)

This undated handout photo, taken in 2001, provided by the Museum of the Rockies shows a bronze cast of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known as the Wankel T.rex, in front of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. (AP)

A magnificent new Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil skeleton out of Montana is headed into the Smithsonian in Washington.  Great jaws.  Huge size.  Skimpy arms.  And a remarkably complete skeleton from a dinosaur that lived an estimated 66 million years ago.  In Montana, dinosaur bones are everywhere.  Paleontologists talking about this kingly T-Rex describe a pre-Montana terrain just crawling with the great creatures.  Dinosaurs all over the place.  We wanted to hear more about that.  To travel back in time and picture that, as realistically as we can. This hour On Point:  When dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

John Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies. Professor at Montana State University. (@dinodetective)

Paul Sereno, paleontologist and professor at the University of Chicago. Explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society.

Mark Tarner, amateur paleontologist. President of the South Bend Chocolate Company.

From Tom’s Reading List

BBC News: How to move a T-Rex dinosaur across the US – “For a quarter of a century, the Wankel T-Rex has been a fixture at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. But the Army Corps of Engineers has now agreed a 50-year loan to the Smithsonian, where it will form the centerpiece of the Natural History Museum’s new dinosaur hall, due to open in 2019. ”

The Guardian: Montana Duelling Dinosaurs could fetch $9m at auction — “The Montana Duelling Dinosaurs, which will go on sale at Bonham’s in New York, are expected to fetch in the region of $7m-$9m (£4.4m-£5.7m). They are some of the most complete and perfectly preserved dinosaur skeletons ever found. They are also scientists’ best way to answer one of the biggest questions in palaeontology: was there another, smaller, top predator that roamed this part of the world in the late Cretacious age 65m years ago, alongside the fearsomeTyrannosaurus rex?”

The South Bend Tribune: Tarner shows off rare dino section — “Tarner and his brother-in-law, Steve Bodi, first traveled to Baker, Mont., to see the dinosaur in spring 2012 after a fossil hunter discovered some of the bones on a ranch. Tarner then bought the fossil site from the owner of the ranch and started the excavation process. So far, Tarner, Bodi and the fossil hunter, Bob Curry, have unearthed about 18 feet of the skeleton, from the tip of the tail to the hips.”

What The Earth Looked Like When T-Rex Ruled Montana

A rough map of the Earth and its major landmasses from 94 million years ago, when modern day Montana was absolutely crawling with dinosaurs. (Texas Geology)

A rough map of the Earth and its major landmasses from 94 million years ago, when modern day Montana was absolutely crawling with dinosaurs. (Texas Geology)

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Ed75

    Elizabeth Kolbert’s work on the six great extinctions (the current one being the 6th) gives us another context for understanding the six ‘days’ of creation, that the world was created, and then all but wiped out and started out again, like an artist painting a canvas and then starting again in a new direction.

  • AnneDH

    I just want to know: why do I only hear about TRex discoveries in the US West? Are there other sites on earth where TRex-types have been found? (Don’t know much about this subject).

    • Kberg95

      Albertasaurus is a “gracile” or smaller version of TRex found in Alberta and other species in the TRex family have been found in other parts of the world. There are also large bipedal predatory dinosaurs like Giganotosaurus which are not native to North America.

      • AnneDH

        Thanks!

  • creaker

    The map is quite interesting – so was the all the land really “crammed” into one area and the rest ocean? Or is it possible there were other land masses that are no longer near the surface, subducted under oher plates, etc.?

    • creaker

      To rephrase in terms of dinosaurs – are there possibilities of prehistoric islands, continents where life evolved but then the land slowly just went away?

      • Kberg95

        As I said above, once continental crust forms, it does not “go away”, but it can be crushed during crustal collisions which form mountain ranges, then worn down via erosion to form vast wedges of sediment that will be deposited in adjacent water bodies, either oceans on continents or in adjacent oceans next to continents. So, yes there are prehistoric lands which no longer exist because they have been so deformed or eroded. Island arcs, like Indonesia or Japan, will eventually merge with continents through plate tectonic activity and thus also “go away”. In fact most continental crust is just that, a collection of smaller land masses, such as island arcs, which have collided together to make larger land masses. Have I confused you enough?

    • Kberg95

      At the time of this map, a single supercontinent of Pangea was rifting apart. It had started around 225 million years ago. Continental crust don’t get subducted. The rocks are too bouyant compared to oceanic crust. That being said, sea level has varied over Earth’s history and at one point, the western US was covered by an epieric ocean, or an ocean on continental crust. At this time, the continental shelf of the Eastern US is part of the continent that is under the Atlantic ocean. 25,000 years ago, this land was exposed.

  • geraldfnord

    I want to know whether the lady cavemen rode the dinosaurs the way the men (and Jesus) did, or were they demure enough to ride side-saddle?

    An entire home-school class are holding their breath in expectation of the answer, and if that last mass forced babtism is any indication, they can’t hold it that long….

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Love T-Rex (from the safety of the 21st century :) ).

    Happy Earth Day all!!!!

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/Earth-Day-burn-them-at-the-stake.jpg

    • Ray in VT

      I guess that he’s just pushing back against “global warming Nazis”.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Dr. Roy or the T-Rex?

        Ohhhh, I’m with you now. The best thing about Dr. Roy’s kerfuffle is it exposed the hypocrisy of the ADL.

        • Ray in VT

          Sure it does.

  • Adam B

    I’d like to hear about the relationship between the early mammals and the great predatory dinosaurs like the T-rex. Was the emergence of mammals pivotal to the health of the greater ecosystem and the sustainability of the large predatory dinosaurs? What was the role of the early mammals and how do their brain and social behavior compare with what we think of in today’s mammals?

  • nj_v2

    What kind of dinosaur(s) did Adam and Eve ride?

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      It takes a special level of maturity to gratuitously mock someones faith and religion.
      upvote?

      • Ray in VT

        Care to provide some scientific evidence to back up the depictions of the Creation Museum’s cavemen and dinosaurs diorama or evidence of humans and dinosaurs living at the same time, as some suggest, based upon that great scientific work the Holy Bible?

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          I’m not familiar with the “Creation Museum” and frankly I have little interest in it.

          As they say — ‘not my cup of tea’.

          btw – I’ve never heard the bible referred to as a “scientific work”. Interesting.

          • Ray in VT

            http://creationmuseum.org/

            Some certainly believe that the Bible is a scientifically accurate book. So a scientific work, perhaps not, but just a work that cannot be wrong, so science must be bent to fit what is in it.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            OK, if you say so. As long as they don’t tell me what to think or are using misinformation to drive public policy why should I care.

          • Ray in VT

            Sure. Such people aren’t prominent in the climate denial community. Take this scientific assessment of global warming for instance:

            “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying
            His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.”

            Now there’s some hard science.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I’m much more concerned with the folks who used misinformation and ignored scientific and economic realities to shut down Vermont Yankee. And the result will INCREASE the use of fossil fuels to power the New England energy grid. Yes, MORE CO2 “pollution”.

          • Ray in VT

            Seems like a dodge. Do you trust that people signing onto such a position would correctly evaluate the science and not allow their faith to influence their opinions?

            And do you assign no blame to a company that lied to regulators and the state, presided over a series of safety incidents and physical failures, as well as attempted to spin off a few of its oldest, most problematic plants into a new, debt-riddled company that might not be able to live up to its obligations to the state? There were opponents of Yankee to be sure, but Entergy helped to dig its own grave here with its conduct.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            The macro analysis on VY is clear. The shuttering of working CO2 free baseload generator of cheap power.

            Too bad Shumlin couldn’t show some real leadership FOR the ratepayers.

          • Ray in VT

            Nuclear isn’t CO2 free. Nothing is really “free”, especially since with nuclear one gets effects from what goes into what is needed for the generation.

            Hydro Quebec should be less CO2, and they give us good rates for a long time, and we don’t have to worry about someone like Entergy dumping who knows what onto us, such as leaky pipes or a bankrupt company.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Not CO2 free? Sounds like a nit or a quibble. Stay focused on the big picture.

            We need hydro quebec AND VY.

            “What a waste – Vermont Yankee is in beautiful condition”

            Yes — a waste.

            http://atomicinsights.com/waste-vermont-yankee-beautiful-condition/

          • Ray in VT

            Nit and quibble, or taking into account all of the factors.

            I think that the events chronicled here speak for themselves, as well as how Entergy conducted itself:

            http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/report/2009/11/vermont-yankee-timeline-incid.pdf

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            So we can conclude Entergy got its act together after 2009. Right?

          • Ray in VT

            Hardly. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can throw them. Trust is earned, and they didn’t earn any with their conduct.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Being skeptical of Entergy is A-OK in my book. It is also A-OK to be skeptical of Greenpeace since they also have an agenda.

          • Ray in VT

            Sure. It’s fine to be skeptical of them, however the troubles of Entergy at Vermont Yankee are in the public record. Greenpeace just did some of the leg work in compiling a list of the problems at that facility.

          • Ray in VT

            Also, considering this article, for instance, http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/11/vermont_yankee_nuclear_plant_c.html one could also conclude that Green Peace just stopped updating that PDF.

          • nj_v2

            ^ MO: Make bogus assertions. Get called out/refuted. Bring up unrelated deflection. RInse. Later. Repeat.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Try mocking Islam next time and see how that works out for you.

      • nj_v2

        I was just curious; people claim that humans and dinosaurs were around at the same time. Just wondering how they got along.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Well, maybe you should ask someone who is making that claim. Or maybe you could just watch an episode of the Flintstone’s and let your imagination go wild.

  • Toni Brown

    Wasn’t there more oxygen available in the atmosphere during the age of the dinosaurs? Did that have an impact on how large they could get (and would that be a problem if one were cloned now)?

    • Kberg95

      I think O2 levels were lower during the Mesozoic, so perhaps dinosaurs would not have problems in our atmosphere. Dinosaurs also had very efficient respiratory systems, as do modern non-avian dinosaurs (aka, birds) which allowed them to thrive in lower oxygen environments.

      • Toni Brown

        I’ve found articles that say the Mesozoic had lower levels, but I’ve also seen articles that have the Cretaceous with oxygen levels as high as 35%. Guess I’ll research further. If they were lower then you’re absolutely right.

        • Kberg95

          Most references I have read do not support that high a concentration of O2. See, for example: Falkowski, P, et al., 2005, The rise of oxygen over the past 205 million years and the evolution of large placental mammals, Science, V. 309, p. 2202-2204 (Sept. 2005)

    • ExcellentNews

      IIRC, oxygen levels were higher in the middle Paleozoic (before cellulose-breaking bacteria evolved that could digest tree material). During the Mesozoic, O2 levels were comparable to today.

  • Philip Trask

    I wonder if these archaeologists have come across any blackfeet artifacts in Montana in the course of their excavations. I have heard some people think humans and dinosaurs were on the land at the same time.

    • JS

      Humans were on land with dinosaur bones, thats about as close as it got. If ancient peoples set up camp on an outcrop with dinosaur bones in it, there remains might be found there, but not as fossils per se

  • creaker

    T-rex and tiny arms – predatory birds need no arms at all, what would T-rex need arms for?

    • adks12020

      Birds don’t have arms but they use their feet and talons like hands. T-rex could use it’s “small arms” in the same way. It’d be nice to have appendages to hold things and pick them up while eating.

      • geraldfnord

        T. rex’s small arms made it much easier to take a middle seat in a crowded ‘plane.

  • geraldfnord

    Considering all this, I might be moving to Montana soon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmcYTShN4Fk

  • Rebecca Watters

    I work in Mongolia as a wildlife biologist, with a peripheral interest in paleontology (because it’s cool….) I’m wondering about the relationship between T. rex and Tarbosaurus baatar, T. rex’s Mongolian “cousin.” I know that T. baatar is disproportionally represented in the fossil record in the Gobi – what’s your guest’s opinion on why? And was T. baatar really a scavenger rather than a predator? Finally, if there’s time, any comment on the international illegal fossil trade and how we might help Mongolians and others enhance their paleontological communities so that these fossils are more likely to stay in country and be valued for their scientific contributions rather than some quick cash?

    • Marcos Pinheiro

      Really? That’s cool and very good thing for you, Mrs. Watters. Greetings, I love dinosaurs and I love the tyrannosaurs as well. T. rex and Tarbosaurus are the tyrannosaurs that calls my attention a lot at the moment, especially their relationships. For now, many agrees that they were likely distinct genuses, and so do I. Tarbosaurus was as big as T. rex, 10-12m long and weighed around 6 tons.

      I studied and researched a lot about the theory. I believe that the tyrannosaurs (all of them) were both hunters and scavengers. (well, in my opinion I believe they were more hunters than scavengers).

      Dr. Horner envision T. rex much like a nasty big vulture. But to me, I see both the “tyrant” and the “alarming” dragons as chimeras of modern day animals. They had features of American alligators or Saltwater crocodiles (powerful jaws for resisting torsions and bone crushing teeth), kiwi (flightless bulky bird, two legged and puny arm bones with one claw) and a Komodo dragon (for its cannibalistic behaviour). And all of them have good sense of smell for hunting and scavenging. See these links if you want to.

      http://unews.utah.edu/news_releases/newly-discovered-predatory-dinosaur-king-of-gore-reveals-the-origins-of-t-rex/

      http://www.livescience.com/20540-tarbosaurus-tyrannosaurus-difference.html

      http://www.livescience.com/8401-tyrannosaurs-hunted-scavenged-fossils-suggest.html

      I hope this helps about your first question of the “heroic alarming lizard”, Mrs. Watters.

      • Rebecca Watters

        Thanks, Marcos, I appreciate your perspectives on this. I don’t really know that much about paleontology, but it seems strange to me that a scavenger would be so large compared to other species in the food chain (just based on how current food chains are structured – I work on wolverines so I spend a fair amount of time thinking about this stuff), although the good sense of smell fits right in. It also seems weird that a predator would be so heavily represented in the fossil record, because having more predators than prey on the landscape wouldn’t make sense from an energetic standpoint – so maybe it represents some kind of bias in the fossilization process? Anyway, it’s fun stuff to think about. I’ve been offered fossils, including fossil dinosaur eggs, several times in Mongolia, and I’ve been in gers in the Gobi where people have psitticosaurus skulls in the corner. I’ve also seen Mongolian fossils for sale here in the States, clearly illegally. I love that country and I think it would be great if Mongolian scientists could take the lead in creating a world-class paleontological program. I’ll keep my eyes open for opportunities to help out. Thanks again.

        • Marcos Pinheiro

          You are very and most welcome, Mrs. Watters. I’m happy that you liked my replies. Keep your both eyes open indeed.

          And yes, good thinking. Maybe they didn’t find many fossilized plant eaters enough yet, but we know that without a doubt there were many individuals or many plant eating dinosaurs like Saurolophus angustirostris, Nemegtosaurus mongoliensis, Protoceratops andrewsi, Therizinosaurus cheloniformis and possible psittacosaurs species like you’ve seen one. And yet there were omnivorous ones too like Gallimimus bullatus and Deinocheirus mirificus With many predators and less food sources, they would’ve devoured themselves, don’t you think so too?

          Indeed, to me, the “alarming” dragon would’ve died of starvation because of their massive size, and other carnovores would have devoured the carcasses as well such as Velociraptor, Alioramus, Saurornithoides and many others in the Gobi 70 MYA.

          Keep in mind also that T. rex and even Tarbo (as I believe) had very
          good eyesight. And yet, their eye sockets face forwards, so they had
          binocular vision and depth perception, just like your wolverines (and
          I’m very surprised about this “no ordinary” animal that you work with). Vultures also have this feature, but they fly at high atitudes and need keen sight to track carrions below!

    • Marcos Pinheiro

      About the last part of your comment, I wish the same thing as you, but I don’t know how to help you with that. Maybe you can try to talk with Dr. Bolor Minjin or someone else in the country to increase the strength of Mongolian paleontology. If China and Australia did, I believe that Mongolia can too when its time has come. But we can’t wait forever, we need to act and make it happen. I know it’s easy to say, but I felt that it was worth saying it to you and to all your friends in the country who can help you. Try to have the heart of a Mongolian dinosaur and walk for their sake. Protect the Gobi’s fossils and save them for the science, Mrs. Watters.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    More Earth Day News:

    “Obama will burn more than 35,000 gallons of fuel on Earth Day, emitting 375 TONS of carbon dioxide”
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2610431/Obama-burn-35-000-gallons-fuel-Earth-Day-emitting-375-TONS-carbon-dioxide.html

    • JS

      And this has to do with T_rex how?

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Pay attention. Earth Day + Fossil fuels

        • JS

          Any excuse to promote your agenda, if it’s off topic so be it.

        • nj_v2

          More scientific ignorance pressed into service to defend off-topic prattle.

          Most fossil fuels originated with plant material; zooplankton and algae.

          The posse is in full clown suit today.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Have a nice Earth Day!!!

    • nj_v2

      ^ Mindless, partisan, off-topic deflection

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        This from a person that was posting about Adam and Eve.

    • geraldfnord

      Very true, just as Phyllis Schlafly’s extensive career out of the home shows her a complete hypocrite.

      (Neither is true: A loud announcement might be necessary to tell everyone to observe a moment of silence.)

  • hennorama

    The Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman is an underappreciated and under-visited gem. It is well worth a trip if you are anywhere near the area.

    • Kberg95

      Been there, it is a wonderful place, so is the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.

      • hennorama

        Kberg95 — thanks for the tip! The ichthyosaur specimen must be amazing to view in person.

  • The poster formerly known as t

    I see two grave omissions, here.

    There was no discussion or depiction of dinosaur sex . It’s really important that we humans know exactly how they “got it on”.
    There was no mention of how Adam and Eve were coexisted with the dinosaurs until God had the angels put all the dinosaurs to sleep from a Creationist expert.

    This is the worst dinosaur discussion ever.

  • ExcellentNews

    Excellent program and a refreshing change from the inane prattle carried by the corporate media !!!

  • Incognito

    I just listened to the podcast, great story.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 15, 2014
In this Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 photo, Middle Eastern leaders stand together during a family photo with of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional partners at King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

President Obama says he will build a coalition of partners in the Middle East to combat ISIS. We’ll do a reality check on who’s really stepping up for what.

Sep 15, 2014
This Monday, Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. (AP/Carson Walker)

Uproar over development plans for the Grand Canyon. We go to the Navajo Nation and the Canyon floor to see what’s at stake.

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 12, 2014
In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

#WhyIStayed. We’re looking at women in and out of relationships of domestic violence.

 
Sep 12, 2014
President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, to discuss options for combating the Islamic State. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The President’s ISIS strategy. The Ray Rice video. Congress is back. Apple’s new watch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: September 12, 2014
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

In which you had varied reactions to the prospect of a robotic spouse.

More »
Comment
 
Beverly Gooden on #WhyIStayed
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

Beverly Gooden — who originated the #WhyIStayed hashtag that has taken off across Twitter — joined us today for our discussion on domestic violence.

More »
1 Comment
 
Tierney Sutton Plays LIVE For On Point
Friday, Sep 5, 2014

We break out Tierney Sutton’s three beautiful live tracks from our broadcast today for your listening pleasure.

More »
2 Comments