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Meet Bucky the Teenage T. rex

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You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Bucky?

Bucky is a Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) which means "tyrant lizard king." Bucky is a teenager almost the size of an adult T. rex. Although still young, Bucky is already big, about 34 feet long and more than 10 feet tall!

A young rancher and rodeo cowboy named Bucky Derflinger discovered Bucky in 1998. That's how Bucky the T. rex got its name. Bucky Derflinger has been collecting dinosaur fossils since he was 9 years old. He was 20 when he saw Bucky's fossilized toe bone sticking out of the ground. The part of the fossilized bone he saw was white because it was weathered and had been bleached by the sun. Bucky Derflinger is the youngest person ever to have discovered a T. rex. You don't have to be a professional paleontologist to be a dinosaur hunter!
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"39346","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","alt":"Bucky Derflinger"}}]]

Most of Bucky's fossilized bones were scattered and difficult to find. The dig site for its bones was about half the size of a football field—the largest dig site ever for a T. rex. Bucky was extremely well preserved and easy to prepare for display in the museum because the rock surrounding its fossilized bones, called the matrix, was soft and easy to remove.

  • Bucky is the sixth most complete T. rex ever found and the first teenage T. rex put on permanent display in a museum.
  • Bucky is the first T. rex to be identified with a furcula (also called a wishbone). This is very important because modern-day birds have wishbones. Does this mean that dinosaurs are distant relatives of birds?
  • Bucky also has a nearly complete set of gastralia and is only the third T. rex to be discovered with an ulna, or elbow bone.

The Life of a T. rex

Bucky lived in the late Cretaceous Period, around 65 million years ago. Tyrannosaurs like Bucky could be found in parts of western North America. Bucky lived at the top of the food chain, but life during the Cretaceous was tough and it wasn't easy to find food. Tyrannosaurs were carnivores, which means they ate meat instead of plants. Starvation, disease, and fights with potential mates and rivals were some of the bad things that could happen to a T. rex.

Although adult tyrannosaurs were one of the largest and most powerful of all predatory dinosaurs (about as heavy as an elephant, tall enough to look through a second story window and long enough to stretch out the width of a tennis court), some other dinosaurs, such as a large duckbill or Triceratops, may have been too big and powerful for a T. rex to kill by itself. Some scientists think tyrannosaurs worked together in families or groups to kill prey.
Bucky had a strong sense of smell, powerful legs that may have allowed it to move quickly, and forward-looking eyes which allowed it to quickly spot and focus on prey—characteristics that made it a ferocious hunter. (Some paleontologists believe tyrannosaurs were actually slow moving.) Bucky's lower jaw hinged like a door at the midpoint between its jawbone and chin so it could open its mouth wider to take bigger bites. Scientists think the T. rex moved its lower jaw backwards so its sharp lower teeth could tear through what it was eating while its upper teeth held the food in place. Fully grown tyrannosaurs were relatively lightweight for their size (around 6 tons—about as heavy as 3 cars) because their bones were hollow and they had large openings in their skulls.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!