Who Got the Money for Sue the Dinosaur

The discovery of the Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue sparked a legal battle over who owned the rights to the fossil. The fossil was found on land claimed by the Sioux Tribe, but Maurice Williams, a commercial fossil hunter, excavated it without permission. The tribe sued Williams, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1990, the Court ruled that the tribe did not have ownership of the fossil because it had been found on private property. However, the Court also ruled that Williams had violated the tribe’s cultural rights by excavating the fossil without permission. The fossil was eventually sold to the Field Museum in Chicago for $8.36 million. The tribe received $2 million from the sale, and Williams received the remaining $6.36 million.


Sue the Dinosaur is a Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in 1990 by Sue Hendrickson in South Dakota, USA. The fossil was named after her by the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.

Legal Battle

A legal battle ensued over the ownership of Sue. Hendrickson claimed she found the fossil on private land, while the landowner asserted it was discovered on federal property. The issue went to court, where the 8th Circuit Court ruled in 1995 that Sue was found on private land and belonged to Hendrickson.

However, the United States government appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1999 that Sue was illegally excavated from federal land and belonged to the government. The court found that Hendrickson had violated the Antiquities Act.

Ultimately, the Field Museum in Chicago purchased Sue from the government in 2000 for $8.4 million. The fossil is now on permanent display at the museum.


In 1990, amateur paleontologist Sue Hendrickson discovered a remarkably well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in South Dakota. She named the specimen “Sue” and attempted to sell it to several museums. In 1997, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago purchased Sue for $8.36 million.

The purchase was controversial as many scientists felt that Sue should be housed in a public institution where it could be studied by researchers. However, the Field Museum argued that owning Sue would allow them to fund further research and build a new exhibition space for the dinosaur.


  • Ownership Dispute: After Sue’s discovery, a legal battle ensued over the ownership of the skeleton. The Black Hills Institute for Geological Research claimed ownership, arguing that Sue was found on land that they leased from the Sioux tribe. However, the court ruled in favor of Hendrickson and her co-owner, Maurice Williams.
  • Ethical Concerns: The sale of Sue raised ethical concerns about the commercialization of fossils. Some scientists argued that it was inappropriate to sell such a valuable scientific specimen to a private entity.
  • Educational Access: The Field Museum’s decision to charge admission for visitors to see Sue was also controversial. Critics argued that this would limit access to the dinosaur for students and low-income families.
1990Sue Hendrickson discovers the T. rex skeleton.
1997The Field Museum purchases Sue for $8.36 million.
2000The Black Hills Institute for Geological Research files a lawsuit over the ownership of Sue.
2006The court rules in favor of Hendrickson and Williams.
2007Sue goes on display at the Field Museum.

Scientific Significance of Sue the Dinosaur

Sue, the renowned Tyrannosaurus rex fossil, holds immense scientific value due to its extraordinary preservation and completeness. Her discovery has provided unprecedented insights into the anatomy, behavior, and evolutionary history of Tyrannosaurus rex and shed light on various aspects of paleontology:

  • Exceptionally Preserved: Sue is one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossils known, with over 90% of her skeletal remains recovered. This exceptional preservation has allowed paleontologists to study her anatomy in great detail, revealing previously unknown features and providing clues about her physical capabilities.
  • Growth and Maturation: Sue’s age at death (28 years) and her growth rings within her bones have provided valuable information about the growth and maturation patterns of Tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists can gather insights into the size, weight, and overall development of these colossal predators.
  • Evidence of Injuries: Sue’s fossil bears evidence of numerous injuries, including broken ribs, healed bite marks, and a fractured tail vertebra. These injuries offer tantalizing glimpses into the life history of Sue and provide clues about her interactions with other animals and the challenges she faced in her environment.
  • Diet and Hunting Behavior: The presence of fossilized prey bones within Sue’s stomach and bite marks found on other dinosaur fossils suggest that Tyrannosaurus rex was a formidable predator. Sue’s teeth, which were remarkably well-preserved, have provided insights into her feeding habits and prey preferences.
  • Paleoecology: The discovery of Sue and other fossilized organisms in the same formation has helped paleontologists reconstruct the ancient environment in which she lived. This information sheds light on the distribution and interactions of various species during the Cretaceous period.
Summary of Scientific Significance
CompletenessProvides insights into Tyrannosaurus rex anatomy and capabilities
Growth and MaturationUnveils patterns of growth and development
Evidence of InjuriesOffers glimpses into Sue’s life history
Diet and Hunting BehaviorElucidates feeding habits and prey preferences
PaleoecologyReconstructs the ancient environment and species interactions

Who Won the Legal Battle Over Sue the Dinosaur Fossil?

Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex is one of the most famous dinosaur fossils in the world. Discovered in South Dakota in 1990 by Sue Hendrickson, the fossil was quickly embroiled in a legal battle over its ownership. The Black Hills Institute, which had funded the excavation, claimed ownership of the fossil. However, Hendrickson argued that she had found the fossil on her own property and was therefore the rightful owner.

The legal battle over Sue lasted for several years. In 1995, a federal court ruled in favor of Hendrickson. The Black Hills Institute appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. As a result, Hendrickson was awarded full ownership of the Sue fossil.

Public Exhibit

After the legal battle was resolved, Sue was put on public display at the Field Museum in Chicago. She has since become one of the museum’s most popular exhibits. Visitors from all over the world come to see Sue, and she has been featured in numerous documentaries and television shows.

  • The Field Museum paid $8.36 million for Sue the T. rex fossil in 1997.
  • Sue is one of the most complete T. rex fossils ever found.
  • Sue is 42 feet long and 13 feet tall.
  • Sue weighs an estimated 15,000 pounds.
MuseumPrice Paid
Field Museum$8.36 million

So, there you have it, folks! The mystery of who got the money for Sue the dinosaur has been solved. It’s been a fascinating journey, and we at [website name] have been thrilled to share it with you. Thanks for reading, and be sure to visit us again soon for more dino-tastic adventures!