Montana is at the epicenter of numerous paleontological discoveries. As you explore the Treasure State, keep your eyes peeled for exhibits and displays related to this “Montana Paleontology Top Ten,” curated by the Montana Dinosaur Trail:
1. North America’s first identified dinosaur remains were found in Montana in 1854, near Judith Landing in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Naturalist Ferdinand Hayden found the remains of what paleontologist Joseph Leidy attributed to a duck- billed dinosaur called “Trachodon.”
2. The world’s first identified T. rex was found in the Hell Creek area near Jordan in 1902 by paleontologist Barnum Brown.
3. North America’s first baby dinosaur bones were found in 1978 near Choteau at Egg Mountain. They are now displayed at the nearby Montana Dinosaur Center in Bynum.
4. “Leonardo,” the “mummy” Brachylophosaurus, found in 2001 near Malta is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-preserved dinosaur ever found. A cast of the specimen is on display at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta.
5. “Montana’s T. rex,” found near Fort Peck Lake in 1997, is one of the most complete T. rex specimens ever found. A cast of the specimen is on display at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center, and the real skeleton is displayed at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.
6. Montana’s first county museum was created in 1936 to display dinosaur remains found in Carter County by amateur paleontologists.
7. The Museum of the
Rockies in Bozeman has the world’s largest collection of T. rex and Triceratops specimens.
8. “Elvis,” a nearly complete and articulated hadrosaur was found near Malta in 1994. The 33-foot long Brachylophosaurus fossil
is on display at Malta’s Phillips County Museum and Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.
9. The most complete juvenile T. rex was found in Carter County in 2001. A cast of the specimen is on display at the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka.
10. Wyrex, discovered in 2004 in Fallon County was the first T. rex to have a complete third metatarsal. A cast of the specimen is on display at the Carter County Museum.
Bonus. Former Museum of the Rockies Curator of Paleontology, Dr. Jack Horner, is the scientific adviser for all of the Jurassic Park movies.
Double Bonus. Three of the fourteen Montana Dinosaur Trail facilities provide public paleontology field dig opportunities: Montana Dinosaur Center, Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, and the Carter County Museum.
Triple Bonus. In 2014, the fossil bones of the Wankel T. rex (MOR 555 discovered by Kathy Wankel in 1988) were sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on a fifty-year loan. In its new pose devouring a Triceratops, the Wankel T. rex, renamed the Nation’s T. rex, is the centerpiece of the Smithsonian’s David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time, a 31,000-square-foot dinosaur and fossil hall. Big Mike, a bronze statue of the Wankel T. rex, greets you upon arrival at Museum of the Rockies. v