A preliminary report on a new specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex named 'Peter'

Learn about the report contributors and find the report references on this page. Access the full report here

University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum

Dr David A. Burnham

+About Dr David A. Burnham

Dr. David Burnham first encountered a Tyrannosaurus rex while working as the Curator of Reptiles for Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in 1991. This was with “Sue” T. rex, that was under study before it was carted away by FBI agents in a raid resulting from a legal dispute. Within a year, this was followed by the discovery of “Stan” the T. rex and Burnham was placed on the field crew excavating its remains. 

Subsequently hired as the State Paleontologist for the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum in 1998, Burnham again encounters Tyrannosaurus rex, but this time it’s an orphan that was abandoned by another museum. Burnham takes over further excavations and preparation of the fossil bones. This led to the discovery of a juvenile tyrannosaur specimen which has launched Dr. Burnham on a T. rex trajectory hoping to span the gap in our knowledge of T. rex life history.

In earlier ground-breaking research, he co-published the “smoking gun” that destroyed the myth of Tyrannosaurus rex being solely a scavenger and clearly demonstrated its predatory behavior with physical evidence. Dr. Burnham is now interpreting new discoveries of youngster T. rex specimens using pathologies to reveal their life history illustrating how these juveniles grew into the super-predator tyrants that had ruled Laramidia.

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester

Dr John R. Nudds

+About Dr John R. Nudds

Dr. John Nudds spent more than 30 years as palaeontologist at The University of Manchester, both as Keeper of Geology in the museum and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Science. He is committed to bridging the gap between private fossil collectors and academia and in 2016 was one of the team that described the new Welsh dinosaur, ‘Dracoraptor’.

He joined the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2003 as Senior Lecturer in Palaeontology, and his research interests have expanded to include exceptional fossil preservation and Fossil Lagerstätten, on which he has co-authored a number of leading textbooks which have been translated into several languages. The acclaimed Evolution of Fossil Ecosystems, co-authored with Professor Paul Selden of the University of Kansas, recently appeared in its 2nd edition with the addition of six new chapters. The companion volume Fossil Ecosystems of North America was published in 2008 by the University of Chicago Press.

He also directs an international team of specialists working on dinosaur embryology who have performed a number of experiments at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, the world’s leading palaeontological synchrotron facility. Baby dinosaurs, still inside their eggs, have been examined by synchrotron radiation for the first time ever, and have revealed a number of startling discoveries including the preservation of soft tissue.

Sharing the science

We’re pleased to be able to share Preliminary Scientific Reports to help visitors who come to see these incredible T. rex understand more about them.

These reports are prepared by two of the world’s top therapod paleontologists, Dr David Burnham (University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum) and Dr John Nudds (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester), who have studied both Peter and Barbara in their university laboratories for many months. Their research has identified the unique pathologies of each specimen, such as the injury to Barbara’s leg and the marks on Peter’s leg. As these reports are preliminary, they’re not peer-reviewed yet.

It’s not standard practice for a museum to share this much information when a specimen is being exhibited for the first time, but with the benefactor’s agreement we’re keen to share the initial findings, to enhance the learning experiences that having these two specimens in our Museum provides for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Updates to the Preliminary Scientific Reports will be an ongoing process and will most likely span decades, rather than years.