Dinosaur skeleton can sell for $8 million, researchers are disgusted

The fully petrified skeleton of a dinosaur gorgosaurusSotheby’s, which roamed the planet 76 million years ago, announced that it will be auctioning off on July 28.

At about 3 m in height and 7 m in length, the well-preserved specimen is a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was discovered in the Judith River near Haver, Montana, USA in 2018. The auction house estimates that the dinosaur will sell for 5 to 8 million dollars.

Experts say it’s hard to confirm whether multi-million dollar auctions of dinosaur skeletons have become more popular, but there have been a number of major sales over the past few years, Science Alert reports.

skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex The name “Stan” sold for a record $31.8 million in 2020. Even celebrities like Nicolas Cage and Leonardo DiCaprio took part in dinosaur fossil auctions. But for paleontologists, this high-profile auction is part of a troubling trend, in which rare fossils can actually be lost at the expense of science.

Disturbing auctions for scientists

Experts in the field say that fossils collected by private fossil collectors could prevent them from being viewed by the public and studied by researchers. “This auction is disgusting,” said Thomas Carr, a paleontologist at Carthage College in Illinois, USA.

Carr added that the fossil is one of the few skeletons gorgosaurus Found in the United States, most of the remains have been discovered in Canada.

“In my career, I have had the privilege to manipulate and sell many extraordinary and unique objects, but few of them have the power to dazzle and capture the imagination like this amazing skeleton. gorgosaurusSaid Cassandra Hutton, Director of Science and Popular Culture at Sotheby’s.

High Level Auctions

Important auctions, such as the future sale of gorgosaurusCarr adds, it fuels the perception that the value of dinosaur fossils is monetary rather than scientific. “The value of dinosaur fossils is the information their bones contain. The sample size is scientific, and auctioning a skeleton to a private buyer equals losing a mountain of data to a scientist.”

If a fossil is privately held, paleontologists like Carr fear that the owners may deny public access to the specimen or resell it, making it difficult for researchers to conduct long-term analyzes, verify previous research, and ask new scientific questions.

Countries like Canada, Mongolia, Brazil and China have laws in place that protect important fossils wherever they are found, according to Victoria Arbor, curator of paleontology at the Royal BC Museum in Canada. But in the United States, permits to collect dinosaur bones are only required if dinosaur bones are found on federal land. Arbor said the fossils are rarely legally auctioned in other countries.

Selling fossils at the best prices

Experts say they are concerned that selling the fossils to the biggest bidder will inflate prices. According to Arbor, most museums work directly with commercial dealers and pay lower prices. Auction prices are “usually much higher than any museum can afford,” Arbor said, adding: “No museum costs $5 million to collect. gorgosaurus. It doesn’t cost zero dollars, but the profit margins are too high for the auctioned copies.”

Image credit: Profimedia

Another concern is that expensive fossil auctions could encourage people to steal the bones rather than leave them for study by paleontologists. In May, National Park Service officials said rare reptile fossils dating back at least 200 million years were stolen from Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park between August 2017 and August 2018.

Not all fossils for auction are inaccessible after sale. One of the first notable fossils ever sold at auction was a dinosaur named Sue, which is the most complete T-Rex Ever, which was sold to Chicago’s Field Museum for more than $8.3 million in 1997.

Collaboration between university students and scientists from the private sector

If someone buys a fossil, the public and researchers have no right to know where it is, according to Arbor. “We don’t always know where these fossils end up,” Arbor said. “It’s really unfortunate, because these really interesting specimens could disappear from scientific access.”

When Stan was sold to an unknown buyer in 2020, the dinosaur skeleton disappeared from public view. It reappeared nearly two years later, when National Geographic reporters first reported that it was on its way to the future Museum of Natural History in Abu Dhabi. The identity of the unknown buyer remains unknown.

Although some fossils purchased at auction are donated to museums and research institutions, paleontologists like Polly point out that there is no guarantee in this regard. “Even a well-meaning collector, once he dies, for example, has little control over what happens to that fossil later,” Polly said, adding that “its long-term availability is always in doubt.” When it ends up in one’s own hands.”

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