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Fuzzy Baby T. Rex Is One of 4 New Stamps Featuring the Dinosaur King

The U.S. Postal Service celebrates <i>T. rex</i> with a new series of stamps.
(Image: © Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History)

The reign of the fearsome dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex ended around 66 million years ago, but people still can't get enough of the toothsome theropod. And now, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) you can attach gorgeously illustrated T. rex scenes to your mail.

On Aug. 29, the USPS will debut a new set of T. rex stamps in a dedication ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C., according to a statement.  

The stamps feature four colorful views of T. rex. Three of the scenes show T. rex as it may have looked during several stages of its life: as a downy newly-hatched baby, a partly-feathered teenager chasing a primitive mammal, and a muscular adult striding through a Cretaceous forest. In the fourth scene, an articulated adult T. rex skeleton looms over the much smaller skeleton of a young triceratops.

Related: In Images: A New Look at T. Rex and Its Relatives

Two of the stamps were modeled after "The Nation's T. rex", a spectacular fossil housed in the dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Two of the stamps were modeled after "The Nation's T. rex", a spectacular fossil housed in the dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

(Image credit: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History)

The skeleton illustration is modeled after a remarkably complete T. rex fossil found in Montana in 1988. Originally installed in the Museum of the Rockies and called the "Wankel T. rex," the 38-foot-long (12-meter) skeleton is now known as "The Nation's T. rex," and has a new home at NMNH. It was unveiled to the public when the museum's newly renovated dinosaur hall — The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils: Deep Time — was reopened on June 7, Reuters reported.

The Nation's T. rex is mounted in a predatory pose, poised over another fossil skeleton: the prone body of an adult triceratops. In the exhibit, T. rex's massive, banana-shaped teeth are clamped firmly on the fallen dinosaur's neck frill.

But the details of that scene would have been difficult to capture in the small frame of a postage stamp, paleoartist Julius Csotonyi told Live Science. Instead, the skeleton stamp shows the enormous carnivore peering down not at an adult triceratops, but at a diminutive baby. Csotonyi created the original artwork for the stamps in collaboration with art director Greg Breeding, according to the USPS statement. 

In the art for the endearing hatchling stamp, the baby's downy coat of feathers represents decades of data establishing that feather-like structures were distributed throughout the dinosaur family. Some early tyrannosaurs are known to have had feathers, so it's reasonable to expect that a later tyrannosaur such as T. rex would also have had the genetic capability of generating feathers, even if the adults don't have noticeable feathers on most of their bodies, Csotonyi said.

"We have fossil material showing Tyrannosaurus adults had scales, but that doesn't necessarily refute the possibility of their having feathers on some parts of the body as well," he added.

Designing stamps such as the T. rex series is a process that can take years, USPS representative Roy Betts told Live Science in an email. It begins with members of the public submitting topic suggestions to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC); proposals are then reviewed by CSAC members and submitted to the U.S. Postmaster General, who makes the final decision about forthcoming designs, Betts said.

Originally published on Live Science.