Dinosaurs are one of the most famous and popular subjects in science. They have been featured in countless books, movies, TV shows, games and toys. But what do we actually know about them? And where can you see the world’s most complete dinosaur skeletons on display?
The American Museum of Natural History in New York has a comprehensive collection of dinosaurs, including the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found. The Field Museum in Chicago also has an impressive array of dinosaur remains, as well as a life-size replica of a T. rex. And if you’re lucky enough to visit London, be sure to check out the Natural History Museum, which has an entire floor devoted to dinosaurs, including the UK’s only complete skeleton of a Diplodocus.
So whether you’re a die-hard dinosaur fan or simply looking to learn more about these fascinating creatures, there are several world-renowned museums with amazing collections of dinosaur skeletons that are well worth visiting should you ever get the chance.
In this article we’ll be looking specifically at near-complete specimens on display around the world, focusing on some of the most impressive dinosaur skeletons that are available for the public to go and see for themselves.
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Not all dinosaurs are created equal
Before we get into our round-up, we wanted to provide a bit of info on how we picked the dinosaur specimens that made it to our list.
For the benefit of this list, we’ve looked at dinosaurs that are most popular and impressive, focusing on better known species, as opposed to simply listing our the most complete specimens on display.
This means that specimens like Edmontosaurus (NMC 8509) – a 75% complete skeleton of an Edmontosaurus annectens displayed at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta – unfortunately don’t make the cut.
We’ve also focused on specimens that are currently on display at museums, as while there have been some impressive skeletons unearthed that are either not ready for display or in private collections, these aren’t much use to us, as we can’t go and see them.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the article and take a closer look at some of the most complete dinosaur skeletons currently on public display.
Are there any complete dinosaur skeleton on display?
There are no 100% complete dinosaur skeleton on display, the closest specimens are 85-90% complete – and of these, there aren’t many.
The missing bones are often replaced with casts, use fossils from other specimens to replace missing pieces, or the skeletons are displayed in an unfinished state so that the viewer can see how they were put together.
The reconstruction of a dinosaur skeleton is a painstaking process that can take many years to complete. First, the bones are cleaned and studied to determine their position and relationship to one another. Then, they are mounted on a metal frame and wired together. Finally, the bones are painted to resemble the original animal.
1. Sue the T-rex – Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Sue is the most complete and best-preserved T-rex skeleton that has ever been found. She is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.
Sue was discovered in 1990 by a team of paleontologists from the Field Museum, and she has been painstakingly reconstructed over the past 25 years. Her skeleton is now on display for all to see, and she is one of the most popular attractions at the museum.
Sue the t-rex is 90% complete. She is 42 feet long and 13 feet high at the hip. The next most complete T-rex after Sue is the specimen known as Stan, which was discovered by a team of paleontologists in 1992.
Stan was on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York before being sold at auction in 2020 for $31.8 million. He is set to be put back on display in the future, and will feature as one of the main dinosaur exhibits in a planned natural history museum in Abu Dhabi.
There is some debate over whether or not Sue was pregnant when she died. Some paleontologists believe that she was, while others believe that she wasn’t. The evidence for either argument is inconclusive.
Sue is one of the more valuable exhibits at the museum, having been acquired at auction for $8.36 million in October of 1997. She went on display at the Field Museum in Chicago in 2000, where she’s been ever since, apart from the occasional national tour.
Sue is one of the most popular attractions at the museum, and she is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Chicago.
2. Horridus the Triceratops – Melbourne Museum, Melbourne
Horridus the Triceratops is over 85% intact and includes a near-complete skull and spine. Horridus is the most complete triceratops discovered to date, being found by Craig Pfister back in 2010 in Thornton, Colorado. He stands at 8 feet tall, is 23 feet long, and weighs-in at 2,205 lbs.
The main highlight of the specimen is it’s skull, which being 98% complete, features all of the dinosaurs trademark features, including it’s three horns, frill, and flat bone plate coming out from the top of it’s head.
The Melbourne Museum bought the Horridus Triceratops in late 2017 from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paying $US5.5 million for the specimen at auction. It’s been on display at the Museum ever since, making it one of the most complete dinosaur skeleton exhibits in Australia.
The next most complete Triceratops was thought to be Judith, discovered in 2005 by Bill Shipp, a retired nuclear physicist. The skeleton is about 75% complete and includes much of the skull, neck, and spine. It is currently on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. However, scientist have since identified this dinosaur as a new species, named Spiclypeus Shipporum – after it’s discoverer.
With Judith reclassified as a different species, the next most complete Triceratops on display is “Big John” – a specimen that is around 60% complete, with a 75% complete skull.
Big John was discovered back in 2014, by paleontologist Walter W. Stein, being unearthed in South Dakota’s Hell Creek geological formation. The skull was first displayed at the Trieste Natural History Museum, Italy, in 2021. This was followed by a brief display of the specimens fully mounted skeleton, with the display coinciding with the release of the book “A dinosaur walking around Trieste”, written by Barbara Battistelli. The Triceratops skeleton was then on display at the Rue des Archive in Paris, France, and is currently still touring between different museums in Europe.
3. Sophie the Stegosaurus – Natural History Museum, London
The Natural History Museum in London is home to one of the most complete Stegosaurus skeletons in the world. Named Sophie, this specimen is on display for all to see. She is a whopping 15 meters long and 4 meters high, making her one of the largest Stegosaurus specimens ever discovered.
Sophie was discovered in 2003 by fossil hunter Mary Schweitzer. She was found in the Morrison Formation in Wyoming, USA. The Stegosaurus skeleton is 85% complete, having some 360 bones, and measures 19 feet in length and 9.5 feet tall.
Despite the dinosaurs nickname, scientist don’t actually know whether Sophie was male or female. Instead, she is named after the daughter of the private donor who made her acquisition possible.
The second most complete Stegosaurus skeleton after Sophie is Spike the Stegosaurus, located at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Discovered in 2006 by paleontologist Peter Makovicky in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, USA, this dinosaur skeleton is about 75% complete and measures 12.8 feet long and 5.6 feet tall.
After Spike, the next most complete Stegosaurus specimen on display is Stanley the Stegosaurus, discovered in 1992 by fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson. He was found in the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota, USA. Stanley is about 70% complete and measures 11.5 feet long and 5.2 feet tall.
Sophie has been on display at London’s Natural History Museum since December 2014, after being acquired at auction for $1.3 million.
4. Juvenile Camarasaurus CM11338 – Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver
The juvenile Camarasaurus CM11338 is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It is the most complete Camarasaurus ever found and the most complete Sauropod on public display at a Museum.
The specimen was discovered in 2009 by paleontologist Nathan Myhrvold and his team in Wyoming, USA. It is the most complete Sauropod skeleton on display, at about 85% complete, and includes much of the skull, neck, and backbones. The skeleton measures 22 feet long and 8 feet tall.
When it comes to Sauropods, the next most impressive display of near-complete specimens would be the trio of Diplodocidae sold to the National University of Singapore and on display at Singapore’s Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum since in 2015. This exhibit consists of three separate dinosaurs, each around 80% complete and suspected of being a family, consisting of an adult male, adult female, and juvenile specimen.
When talking about Sauropods on display, no list would be complete without mentioning the Carnegie Diplodocus, was found in 1878 by David William Carnegie in 1899 in Albany County, Wyoming.
The original Carnegie Diplodocus skeleton – which is about 60% complete and measures a whopping 79 feet long and 23 feet tall. It is on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has been on display since 1894, making it one of the oldest dinosaur skeletons on display in the world.
Dippy – as the specimen is known – is one of the most famous dinosaur specimens, with numerous casts of this skeleton that are on display at various museums around the world. There casts can be found at the Field Museum in Chigago, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the St. Louis Science Center in Missouri, Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio, and the Natural History Museum in London.
Given the dinosaur skeletons impressive size, the length of time it’s been on display for, and it’s accessibility, due to the existence of multiple casts – few specimens have sparked an interest and love of all-things dinosaurs as Dippy has over the 128 years it’s been in the public consciousness for.
5. Big Al the Allosaurus – Museum of the Rockies, Montana
Big Al is the most complete Allosaurus skeleton on display in existence, consisting of over 250 bones and being 95% complete. The specimen measures approximately 26 feet in length. The dinosaur skeleton was discovered in 1991 in the Morrison Formation, Wyoming, United States.
Besides how complete it is, another interesting thing about this dinosaur specimen are the series of injuries it sustained – with the skeleton including a broken left shoulder, fractured ribs, and a healed skull fracture.
It’s impossible to talk about Big Al without mentioning Big Al 2, another almost complete Allosaurus specimen, discovered in 1993 by the same team that unearthed Big Al, not too far from where the original skeleton was found, is almost as complete as Big Al and is about 12% larger.
The original skeleton of “Big Al” is on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana, while “Big Al 2” can be found the at the Saurier Museum, Zurich. In addition to the originals, there are a couple of casts on display in the US, with the University of Wyoming Geological Museum, Laramie having a cast of “Big Al”, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston having one of “Big Al 2” on display.
Big Al even inspired a special program mini-series in the BBC’s famed “Walking with Dinosaures” series, where they recreate how the Allosaurus might have lived and sustained the injuries seen in its remains.
Another near-complete Allosaurus specimen is Kan the Allosaurus, which being made up from 200 individual bones, is about 70% complete. Kan the Allosaurus was sold at auction for $2.36 million in December 2016. The specimen – which it turns out may not be an Allosaurus at all, but rather a new, unknown theropod – is currently displayed at the Château de Marqueyssac, Dordogne.
While there are no fully complete dinosaurs – either on display or discovered so far – there are several 90-95% complete specimens that you can go and visit at several museums around the world. From Sue the T-Rex, to Big Al the Allosaurus – there are plenty of great, near-complete dinosaur skeleton displays that are well worth a visit.
Thankfully, for those living in the US, the bulk of these museums are located through the country, making these impressive, awe-inspiring dinosaur skeletons highly accessible.
For those outside the US, there are plenty of great natural history museums throughout Europe and the rest of the world, with arguably one of the best collections outside of the US belonging to London’s Natural History Museum, which has a whole floor dedicated to dinosaurs.
So, whether you’re a dinosaur enthusiast or simply want to marvel at these ancient creatures, be sure to check out these fantastic museums and their incredible dinosaur exhibits.