Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SD Mines’ T. rex Tooth on Display at Smithsonian Exhibit

The Smithsonian’s completed cast of the T. rex tooth housed at SD Mines, which will be used as a touch specimen by volunteers working in the exhibit’s fossil preparation laboratory to allow visitors to see and feel the tooth up close.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Nov. 25, 2014) – The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History is displaying a cast of a T. rex tooth from SD Mines in its exhibit, “The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering A Lost World,” which opened Monday, Nov. 25.

Smithsonian Museum Technician and SD Mines alumna Michelle Pinsdorf says the tooth is unusual in that it is complete from root to tip. Most T. rex teeth in fossil collections are either still in the sockets of the skull or jaw or they are ‘shed,’ meaning they broke while the animal was biting on something and fell out of the mouth. The complete tooth from SD Mines detached from the animal’s jaws after it died, when the soft tissues holding it in the socket decayed. Because the full length of the root is preserved, visitors can see just how big a Tyrannosaurus tooth could be, and that most of the tooth was actually anchored in the jaw to provide strength when biting.

The Smithsonian molded and cast the T. rex tooth taken from the university’s collections in order to create a touch specimen that volunteers working in the exhibit’s fossil preparation laboratory could use to offer visitors the chance to see and feel the fossil up close.

112514 Trex Tooth Display

A second cast of SD Mines’ T. rex tooth mounted to a panel in the exhibit itself. While a full skeleton of T. rex stands overhead, visitors can touch this tooth and feel the conical tip and knife-like serrations that allowed T. rex to be at the top of the food chain.

Another cast of the tooth is mounted in the exhibit itself. While a full T. rex skeleton stands overhead, visitors can touch this tooth and feel the conical tip and knife-like serrations that allowed T. rex to be at the top of the food chain.

Pinsdorf spearheaded the effort to seek out the use of this tooth for the exhibit. As a graduate of the master’s paleontology program at SD Mines – the only one nationwide – she worked with the Museum of Geology’s T. rex specimen for her thesis study. When the Smithsonian exhibit design team expressed a desire to use of a cast of a large T. rex tooth in the display, Pinsdorf knew the one from SD Mines would serve perfectly. The tooth came from a T. rex skull on display at the SD Mines Museum of Geology. It was discovered as part of a larger excavation effort, buried near the animal’s skull.

“My personal connection with the School of Mines and this Museum of Geology specimen makes me proud to have produced a replica of the tooth to display for visitors from around the world. I am thankful to the Museum of Geology staff for allowing the Smithsonian permission to produce this replica, and to Jennings and Shirley Floden who originally found and donated this unique specimen to the Museum of Geology,” Pinsdorf said.

The fossil was found by Jennings and Shirley Floden in Hell Creek in 1981.

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About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,798 students from 45 states and 39 foreign countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 98 percent, with an average early-career salary for graduates of $65,600, according to the 2014-2015 PayScale report. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sdsmt.

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About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.