A ‘roar-some’ milestone: University of Leicester’s T. rex turns ten

The formidable replica of one of history's most fearsome predators was unveiled ten years ago on 29 October

She was one of the most fearsome creatures of the prehistoric period and this week celebrates reaching the ripe old age of ten years old.

Lurking amongst the labs, lecture theatres and offices of the University of Leicester’s School of Geography, Geology and the Environment is a Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur named Jane - at least, a 21-foot long cast of a rare, sub-adult individual that sits as the centrepiece of the department’s ‘Flying Dinosaur’ exhibition.

This year marks ten years since Jane was installed in the exhibition and the School is celebrating with a number of events for schoolchildren and members of the public.

The formidable T. rex has been a familiar site to visitors to the School. Originally intended as an educational facility for members of the public and school visits, as well as for staff, students and academic research, the School estimates that Jane has received up to 1000 schools visits since she was unveiled in 2008.

Emeritus Professor David Siveter will also give a public lecture entitled ‘Exceptionally Preserved Fossils and T. rex: Messengers on the History of Life’ on Monday 29 October. Fossils shape our understanding of the history and evolution of life, especially the rare and amazing cases of ‘exceptional preservation’. Exceptionally preserved fossils help us to understand and interpret the history of life, and to resolve controversies about animal relationships today. Join Professor Siveter on an illustrated journey of these beautifully preserved, exceptional fossils on 29 October from 5:30 to 7:00pm in Lecture Theatre 1, Bennett Building. The lecture is free and open to all.

The original ‘Jane’ fossil was found in 2001 in Hell Creek, Montana, USA, and it is estimated that she died at around 10 years old. The cast at the University of Leicester is made out of fibreglass and resin and was created in Toronto by the team that made the dinosaur skeletons that featured in the film Jurassic Park.

Mark Purnell, Professor of Palaeobiology, said: “Jane has been a great addition to the department these past ten years, helping us to illustrate evolutionary concepts to students, schoolchildren and our visitors. The direct kinship of birds with theropod dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex, combined with exceptional preservation of soft body parts including feathers, provides solid, fossil evidence of how, when and why the characteristic features of animals around us today first evolved millions of years ago.”

Jane lived around 66 million years North America, at that time the local environment was a lush, warm-temperate floodplain. Although weighing nearly 700kg, she was built for speed and could run as fast as 20-30 miles per hour. Despite her name, it is impossible to determine from the fossilised skeleton whether this individual was male or female.