Scotty the T. rex is Saskatchewan’s most famous fossil, and he plays a central role in a University of Alberta (U of A) research paper.
The U of A palaeontologists are working on a pair of publications that will describe the tyrannosaur skeleton. The bones of Scotty are kept in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM) collection, and out of province scientists are able to study the remains through laser scanned, 3D models.
These models are being used to aide in the illustrations for the research paper.
The first U of A study focuses on Scotty’s size compared to other T.rexes, and the study the RSM is assisting with details a full academic skeletal description with comparisons to other tyrannosaur remains found throughout western Canada.
RSM curator of invertebrate palaeontology Ryan McKellar said the laser samples thousands of points of data per square inch, creating a near-lifelike replica.
“It allows us to see details you could never capture reliably with a camera,” McKellar explained.
This includes scratches in Scotty’s snout. The current theory is these are scrapes left behind by the jaws and claws of another T. rex. Regardless of origin, there’s more than enough evidence to say Scotty lived a tough life.
“The fact that the skull bones aren’t held together very well. It’s a situation like osteoporosis, where a lot of the bone has been reabsorbed and the hard fusion between parts of the skull don’t exist anymore,” McKellar said.
The T. rex also has crushed vertebrae near its hips/base of the tale.
The bones can also help determine Scotty’s age, believed to be more than 28 years old. McKellar said other tyrannosaur samples have rings in the bone, similar to tree rings.
The most rings found in a T. rex bone are 28, and Scotty’s skeleton no longer shows these rings. Based on the dinosaur’s size, scientists know Scotty was a fully-grown adult.
The fossil scans have a variety of applications, such as future displays once the RSM renovations are complete.
“Down the road, we have these 3D models that we can 3D print so we can get close to them,” Mckellar said.
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“Or if a researcher is interested in a model we can send them a scan instead of an entire specimen or cast of a specimen. They can have a model and three people can be working on it at the same time. We do it a lot with our amber work too.”
Scotty was found near Eastend, Sask. in 1991. The RSM excavation process began in 1994. A full replica of his remains is at the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend. A cast of Scotty’s skeleton will be installed in the RSM at the end of their revitalization. This is expected in late spring, 2019.
For more on the fossil research going on at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum tune into Focus Saskatchewan on Dec. 8, 2018.