T. Rex Debuts in Portland

The skeleton of one of the finest Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever unearthed is on exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Samson the T. Rex // (c) Bonhams & Butterfields


The 66 million-year-old fossilized skeleton of Samson, one of the finest Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever unearthed, is currently on exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland. The skeleton, which made its worldwide public debut at OMSI last month, will be on display through summer 2010.

Discovered in South Dakota in 1987, Samson, as the fossil is nicknamed, was found with its skull largely intact. The fossilized remains include nearly 60 percent of Samson’s original bones (170 in all), making it the third most complete T. rex specimen in the world. Fully constructed, Samson is 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. During her/his lifetime (scientists haven’t definitively ascertained Samson’s gender), the T. rex could have easily peered into a second-story window and would have weighed a ground-shaking six tons.

The most interesting aspect of the exhibit is Samson’s skull. Too heavy to be attached to the dinosaur’s skeleton, the skull and 22 of its razor-sharp teeth are displayed in their own case. The skull bears signs of the rough-and-tumble life lived by predators during the late Cretaceous period. Several healed puncture wounds to the skull most likely represent bites from other Tyrannosaurus rex. The back of Samson’s head provides evidence as to what may have led to the giant predator’s demise: severe trauma accentuated by additional puncture wounds, as well as indication of an active bacterial infection.

Samson was sold at auction in October 2009 to a private buyer. That buyer generously opted to make the specimen available for museum exhibition, with OMSI at the top of the list.