Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex, the oldest apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, is very much enjoying Red Dead Redemption 2. So much so that it’s taken them away from an ongoing game of Dungeons & Dragons. The remarkably complete collection of 65-million-year-old fossilized remains appears to be smitten with the cowboy life, and has recently taken up virtual paleontology.
As far as museum specimens go, Sue has a particularly fun-loving social media team. The decision to play Red Dead Redemption 2, however, makes a lot of sense, considering that the single-player campaign features a set of missions where players locate fossils.
IMPORTANT STATUS UPDATE: I have met the sassy dinosaur lady. She is a mix of Susan Hendrickson and Mary Anning, and I’m prepared to die for her. pic.twitter.com/tm7jTmUqia— SUE the T. rex (@SUEtheTrex) November 12, 2018
Truth be told, the period of time that the game covers lines up nicely with the birth of paleontology as we know it, the long history of which is littered with its own assortment of rogues and outlaws.
Sue seems to hold a grudge against one in particular named Edward Drinker Cope.
Hoping to run into Edward Drinker Cope so I can throw him off a cliff... pic.twitter.com/zVUvOIhMoN— SUE the T. rex (@SUEtheTrex) November 5, 2018
A well-regarded paleontologist, Cope was also a comparative anatomist and a proponent of using brain size to judge intelligence and thereby racial superiority. He died in 1897 at the age of 56.
As for scientific accuracy, Sue is of the opinion that Rockstar could have done better with this particular quest line.
For instance: This is me, after just a *little* bit of prep work.— SUE the T. rex (@SUEtheTrex) November 12, 2018
Susan here spotted me because she was trained on what to look for emerging from rock outcroppings, and in the correct geologic context. pic.twitter.com/6B2Sz69z5x
“To everyone over at Rockstar Games,” Sue said, “I realize this is a crazy huge project and you couldn’t paint everything with the accuracy brush... but no one ever discovers dinosaur bones like this.”
Rather than dunk on the team of developers, Sue has instead taken the high road and turned the quest line into a teachable moment. They made a point of mentioning that intact fossils are almost never discovered. Instead, erosion and other geologic forces really make a hash of things.
The specimens you see in a museum or announced in the press is years, even decades, of fastidious effort on the work of prep lab folks such as the ones we have here @FieldMuseum pic.twitter.com/r1JZL5zfDu— SUE the T. rex (@SUEtheTrex) November 12, 2018
Rather than toss dinosaur remains into the back of a wagon, scientists in the field spend weeks at a time reinforcing specimens with plaster and other materials before they can be transported.
When you see fossils prepped in the field and transported, they’re usually wrapped in plaster jackets to preserve the find (we’re actually very fragile). pic.twitter.com/MKu0cp2hAI— SUE the T. rex (@SUEtheTrex) November 12, 2018
Sue even wonders out loud what could have been if Rockstar had put a little more effort in: “Imagine if they trained folks to look for certain telltale signs of vertebrae in cuts from river beds? Or identify fossilized tracks while you’re out wandering around?”
It wouldn’t be the first time that video games had rubbed off on people in a good way, Sue says, citing an incident from 2007 when young man put his experience in World of Warcraft to good use during a moose attack.
At the end of the day, however, one thing is clear. Everyone — even the petrified pieces of a semi-sentient deceased dinosaur — likes seeing horses crash.
Not to brag, but: I am the greatest cowboy that ever lived.— SUE the T. rex (@SUEtheTrex) December 5, 2018
THE. GREATEST. pic.twitter.com/NG45UpT10r
Recently, Sue the T. rex was removed from display in the main hall of the Field Museum, destined for their own private exhibit space. The move will also alter their mounting, adjusting its posture to align with recent discoveries. You can visit them in their new suite, which opens on Dec. 21.
Alternately, you could just challenge them to a duel in Red Dead Online.