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Sue The T. Rex Is Making Big Moves With Her Big Bones

Beloved by thousands, Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex is moving from her home in the main exhibition hall of Chicago's Field Museum to her own private suite on the second floor.
Courtesy of The Field Museum
Beloved by thousands, Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex is moving from her home in the main exhibition hall of Chicago's Field Museum to her own private suite on the second floor.

Fiona the hippo may be one of the greatest living social media stars of the decade, but in terms of those who aren't living, look no further than Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Though she's a fossil, Sue is a true Chicagoan and has been on display in her home at The Field Museum since 2000.

Like many of us these days, Sue is sassy and shares her hot takes on Twitter with adoring fans.

"Sue is the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex. She's also the largest," says Bill Simpson, head of the geological collections at the Field Museum. "So yeah, she's, I would argue, one of the most famous fossils."

Now, Sue is making a big move.

She's going from the main exhibit hall to her own private suite on the second floor. Because of her size, age, and yes, the fact that she's not exactly living and able to move herself, she's getting some help.

Bone by bone, her move began on Monday, starting with the feet — specifically the tarsals and metatarsals.

Then, she lost her tail — vertebra by vertebra — all the while keeping the public updated on her progress and leaving no one behind.

As Sue comes off her mount, the skeleton crew uses Allen wrenches to take each piece apart, the same tools you might use on IKEA furniture.

Despite being a main attraction for visitors, Simpson says Sue is still used for research. As such, every bone gets its own photo shoot and is then labeled and cataloged for future use, before being packed into foam padding and taken upstairs.

Once she's fully dismantled, Sue will take a bit of vacation and won't be back on display until 2019. But when she is, she'll be even bigger and have a slightly different look.

"What will really strike them as the biggest change to the skeleton will be that we're going to add structures referred to as belly ribs," Simpson says. "They basically complete the rib change."

These belly ribs, or gastralia as they're called, are not new, but Simpson says the museum didn't have time to add them before.

Now, the museum has a rare second shot to mount Sue, giving her a more accurate and realistic look.

"It'll give her this big ponderous belly that will make her look a lot bigger," Simpson says.

Along with some adjustments to her legs and posture, Sue will be reunited with her wishbone, which will change the position of her arms.

But in the meantime, you can find Sue on Twitter tweeting about Portillo's hot dogs, Jeff Goldblum and Jurassic Park, all while reminding kids she could eat them in one bite.

For now, just chomp on that.

The audio for this story was produced by Christina Cala and edited by Selena Simmons-Duffin. Wynne Davis adapted it for Web.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Christina Cala is a producer for Code Switch. Before that, she was at the TED Radio Hour where she piloted two new episode formats — the curator chat and the long interview. She's also reported on a movement to preserve African American cultural sites in Birmingham and followed youth climate activists in New York City.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.