Sue update

March 2, 2018 • 10:15 am

by Greg Mayer

She’s gone. I was at the Field Museum on Wednesday for the first time since the previous month, and the removal of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex has been completed.

Stanley Field Hall, where Sue used to be.

Viewed from the balcony above, visitors walk through Stanley Field Hall, seemingly unaware of the ghostly white outline of Sue’s now departed plinth.

Where Sue used to be, from above.

A sign explained where Sue will eventually show up.

Sue’s actually not gone away entirely, for the second floor balcony display, featuring Sue’s real skull, remains in place. [JAC: the skull was always up there as it was too heavy to mount on the skeleton downstairs.]

The second floor display also includes touchable, life-size, bronze models of various parts of Sue, including the (relatively) tiny forearm. Devotees of the concept of unity of type, and Neil Shubin‘s Your Inner Fish in particular, will recognize the “one bone, two bones, many bones” pattern found throughout the tetrapod vertebrates and their piscine forebears.

A bronze model of Sue’s forearm.

A closeup of the digits; the two distalmost phalanges of the outer (lower, in this photo) digit were among the few bones missing from Sue’s skeleton, and the ones in the model are based on Albertosaurus, a related theropod dinosaur.

Sue’s fingers.

From up on the balcony, I could also get a better look at the model of Pteranodon longiceps hanging from the ceiling.

Pteranodon longiceps in the Field Museum.

And zooming in a bit.

Does the position of this model mean that Pteranodon is Ceiling Reptile?

21 thoughts on “Sue update

  1. The Pteranodon reminded me. A great book on these flying reptiles is “Pterosaurs” by Mark P. Witton. The range of sizes and configurations is amazing. Great illustrations by the author who is also a paleontologist.

  2. So, Jerry, what do you think of the move? It seems like people will be able to learn a lot more about Sue at her new location, but her original position was rather iconic. Seems like a struggle between well-known tradition and educational utility.

    1. I forgot to add that I would have left the old gal where she was. Someone that old shouldn’t be moved around unless absolutely necessary!

    2. Britain has recently gone through the trauma of such a relocation, with the main hall suffering the removal of “Dippy”, one of Andrew Carnegie’s casts of Diplodocus carnegeii, and it’s replacement by some life size model of an Alan Carr. I mean, “a blue whale”.
      Similar wailing and gnashing of teeth. Less wailing from those of us who remember when it moved from the side gallery of the Hall of Reptiles into the main hall in 1979. O tempora, o mores!(Oh Times, Oh Daily Mirror!)
      Flying a blue whale around the hall, a la Calvin ; now there’s an aspiration to aspire to!

      1. (Natural History Museum, ; for our deprived Transpondian and Antipodean correspondents.)
        Very few people noticed the move, about 5 years ago, of a statue of the museum’s builder (and prominent anti-evolutionist scientist) Richard Owen from the main staircase to some side gallery, and it’s replacement by a bust of one C.Darwin in the overseeing position.
        “Dippy” has, in Australian, “gone walkabout”.

      2. Very interesting!

        “…it’s replacement by some life size model of an Alan Carr. I mean, ‘a blue whale’.”

        Oh snap!

    1. Why would they taste like each other. One probably tastes of dinosaur and the other of pterosaur – which are still of quite dubious placement in the rag bag that is “Reptilia”

  3. From up on the balcony, I could also get a better look at the model of Pteranodon longiceps hanging from the ceiling.

    I see thing like this and always think – if you replaced the fixed wires with fast-spooling winches, and drove them from a relatively dumb microcontroller, could you make it fly around in the hall space?
    Even better (but needing a lot more microcontroller intervention), put a little joystick somewhere so that nerdy little bar stewards can launch outright prehistoric aerial warfare on their teachers.
    There’s probably a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on the subject.
    And Calvin’s second thought would be to try to crash “Pterry” into the wall, ceiling floor, or (best) all simultaneously. Which your microcontroller programmer had better test overrides for really comprehensively.

  4. Thanks for the update. The real skull is magnificent.

    Question: is unity of type the same thing as nested hierarchies?

    1. Not quite. Here’s Darwin’s account from the Origin (1859:206):

      It is generally acknowledged that all organic beings have been formed on two great laws—Unity of Type, and the Conditions of Existence. By unity of type is meant that fundamental agreement in structure, which we see in organic beings of the same class, and which is quite independent of their habits of life. On my theory, unity of type is explained by unity of descent. The expression of conditions of existence, so often insisted on by the illustrious Cuvier, is fully embraced by the principle of natural selection. For natural selection acts by either now adapting the varying parts of each being to its organic and inorganic conditions of life; or by having adapted them during long-past periods of time: the adaptations being aided in some cases by use and disuse, being slightly affected by the direct action of the external conditions of life, and being in all cases subjected to the several laws of growth. Hence, in fact, the law of the Conditions of Existence is the higher law; as it includes, through the inheritance of former adaptations, that of Unity of Type. [emphasis added]


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