Tyrannosaurus skeletons tell of quick exit, in ‘The Monster’s Bones’

Sixty-six million years ago, one of the most famous creatures in history roamed Earth: the Tyrannosaurus rex. It grew to 40 feet long, could weigh more than 7 tons, and had terrifyingly powerful jaws. He was the ruler of the late Cretaceous world, and it’s the subject of journalist David Randall’s captivating new book, “The Monster’s Bones: The Discovery of T. Rex and How It Shook Our World.”

The T. rex is long gone before the main action of Randall’s book begins. That action plays out in the Montana badlands of the early 20th century, where dinosaur-hunter Barnum Brown first discovered Tyrannosaurus bones in 1902. Brown is one of the foremost heroes of Randall’s book, an intrepid explorer with an almost infallible bone-prospecting instinct. “During his life, Brown was widely recognized as the best dinosaur collector who ever lived,” Randall writes. “He went out into the unknown and came back with new puzzle pieces that told the story of life on Earth, and he did it again and again and again, a run of success and discovery as impressive as navigating the stars.”

And if we’ve got a hero, we need a villain, yes? In Randall’s telling, that would be Henry Fairfield Osborn, the foppish and dilettantish director of the American Museum of Natural History in New York (and Brown’s boss), who’s portrayed here as a windy theorizer sitting in his comfortable laboratory while people like Brown are out braving the elements.

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