A dinosaur skeleton sold at auction for more than $2 million

A nearly complete skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur was sold at auction in Paris, with some features indicating that it may be a species unknown to science. An anonymous buyer from France paid $2.36 million for the nine-meter-long exhibit. Paleontologists do not hide their indignation.

The auction itself was legal. The skeleton was found on private property in Wyoming, and the law in the United States mówi that fossils found on private land belong to the landowner, and the landowner can do what he likes with them. This is the only such legal arrangement in the world. Many other countryóin whichóhe world where complete skeletons can be found – China, Mongolia or Argentina – prohibiting the export of fossils.

According to the auction catalog, the sold specimen was found in 2013 at a site known for its numerous fossils of Jurassic creatures. The 9-meter-long specimen is probably an allosaurus, a type of large theropod related to the tyrannosaurus. The dinosaur lived about 154 millionów years ago, during the póThe evil jury.

„Research has indicated that the specimen has some features of an allosaur, but may belong to an as yet unknown group of theropodsów” – One could read in the catalog description of the auction. From the description, one could also learn that the skeleton, however, has ródifferences in pelvic structure. Rós cranium and teeth are also affected, and these róThe differences are significant enough to be considered a new species. Thomas Carr, a paleontologist at Carthage College in Wisconsin, noted that the catalog description and the statement in it that it may be an as yet unknown species was intended to get a higher figure. – The skeleton did not róIt is nothing like the allosaurusów, które previously seen – he admitted.

However, even the small possibility that it could be a specimen unknown to science has outraged the scientific community. And this is not about this particular specimen, but a growing trend. Even before the auction, paleontologists from around the world warned that this exhibit could be lost to science. A representative of the auction house Aguttes – Eric Mickeler in response stressed that „The sale is fair, public, legal and documented”. In doing so, he added that the debate over who can sell and buy fossils is an old one. – Since the 19th century, the fossil market has been organized and animated by private companies and private buyersów, not just by museums – pointed out.

– Although everything was done legally, fossil auctions are part of a growing trend, który could lead to valuable specimens of unknown speciesów may stay in the ogóle unexplored by scientistóIn, because those can’t afford to spend such huge sums of money – said P. David Polly, a paleontologist at Indiana University, coółautor of a protest letter addressed to auction house Aguttes to cancel the auction.

– An auction is a tool with whichóhe highest possible price and, truth be told, even large museums do not have the budgetóIn for such purchases – Polly added. Although the exception here is the 1997 purchase of a 67 million year old Tyrannosaurus skeletonów years by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for the not inconsiderable sum of $8.4 millionów.

As the paleontologist points out, usually museums and research institutions spend about 10,000. Dollaróin for the big dig. Such an amount is usually enough to cover the costów that scientists must incur to excavate the fossil and properly prepare it. But this is a fraction of the amount for whichórą sold the skeleton at auction in Paris.

Look at the sky ! A #dinosaur !
Still ONE day to D-DAY.
Tomorrow at 6pm (Paris time) we will offer at #auction this amazing unknown species of dino
Come visit us at the #EiffelTower #paleo #paris #paleontology #dinoaguttes @LaTourEiffel #jurassic #JurassicWorldFallenKingdom pic.twitter.com/dcAF1MKQsp

— Aguttes (@Aguttes_) June 3, 2018

– And therein lies the problem – believes Polly. If dinosaurs found on private U.S. land are auctioned off and fetch large sums, landowners may begin to see them as a lucrative business venture. They may stop wanting to wspó³collaborate with scientists. For them, the highest price will count, not the good of science. Such an attitude can make it much more difficult for researchers to access valuable specimensów.

There have been numerous fossil auctions in Paris over the past few years. In April, the auction house Binoche et Giquello sold allosaurus and diplodocus skeletons for more than 1.4 million euros. Last year, the same auction house sold a triceratops skull. Auction house Aguttes in 2017 sold an allosaurus skeleton for more than €1.1 million, and a year earlier a Siberian mammoth, for pół million euros.

While there are no statistics kept on fossil sales, Polly estimates that there are about five such transactions a year. The new owner of the Wyoming specimen – an anonymous French art collector – said that in the future the specimen will be loaned to a museum. Researchers are distrustful and do not take the new owner’s promises seriously.