Dinosaurs ceased to walk the earth 66 million years ago, yet they still live among us. Velociraptors star in movies, and Triceratops toys clutter toddlers' bedrooms. Of these charismatic animals, however, one species has always ruled our fantasies. Children, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and professional paleontologists agree that the superstar was and is Tyrannosaurus rex.
Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said that every species designation represents a theory about that animal. The very name Tyrannosaurus rex—“tyrant lizard king”—evokes a powerful image of this species. John R. Horner of Montana State University and science writer Don Lessem wrote in their book The Complete T. rex, “We're lucky to have the opportunity to know T. rex, study it, imagine it, and let it scare us. Most of all, we're lucky T. rex is dead.” And paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, now at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, described T. rex as a “10,000-pound roadrunner from hell,” a tribute to its obvious size and power.