Sue the dinosaur gets life-like model to match skeleton

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Sue the dinosaur gets life-like model to match skeleton
Sue the dinosaur gets life-like model to match skeleton

For two decades, Sue has drawn dinosaur lovers to the Field Museum so they can catch a glimpse of the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered.

Now, museum-goers can walk up to a life-size model of what Sue would have looked like when alive.

The 40-foot-long, 14-foot-tall “Sue in the Flesh” exhibit was unveiled at the museum’s Stanley Field Hall Thursday. The life-size model prominently features a replica baby Edmontosaurus in its mouth. The Edmontosaurus was probably a popular part of a Tyrannosaurus rex’s diet, experts say.

“Sue in the Flesh” was created at Blue Rhino Studio in Minnesota and matches the exact dimensions and details of Sue’s skeletal counterpart, including scars and scratches. Just above the dinosaur’s left ankle is a scar experts guess caused a bone infection and was the result of Sue being rammed by a Triceratops or battered by the clubbed tail of an Ankylosaurus, said Bill Simpson, head of geological collections at the museum.

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It’s still up for debate whether Sue would have had scaly skin or been covered in feathers, but Simpson said fossils that have been uncovered lead experts to imagine the dinosaur without feathers.

Using a miniature 3D print of Sue’s skeleton, “Sue in the Flesh” took roughly a year to make, said Ben Miller, an exhibition developer at the Field Museum. The model uses dense foam and a fiberglass shell to bring the bones to life.

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Miller saw the structure as it was being constructed, but seeing it in its complete form was an entirely different way of experiencing Sue, he said.

“It’s amazing how big it is,” Miller said. “Its calf muscle is as big as I am.”

Megan and Ryan Hood brought their three children, ages 7, 5 and 2, to the Field Museum Thursday because it was on the family’s bucket list before they move from their Sauganash home.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Megan Hood said. “It’s slightly graphic, but the kids are not as scared as I thought they would be.”

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“Sue in the Flesh” will be at the Field Museum until Aug. 17. After that, it’ll be shipped across the country and world as a part of a traveling exhibit. Joseph Mandrell will travel with the creature, setting it up in each new location and disassembling it to move onto the next museum, a process he said he anticipates will take less than a day to complete.

“Sue looks fantastic here in the Stanley Field Hall,” Mandrell said. “But in some of the smaller venues, I think its presence will be even more overwhelming.”

The Field Museum is open Thursday to Monday, and tickets have a designated entry time due to the coronavirus.

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