February 1, 2023

This year, a tail vertebra of a long-necked dinosaur was auctioned for more than $8,000. A single peak of a Stegosaurus tail sold for over $20,000. A tooth from a Tyrannosaurus rex? Over $100,000.

In a booming dinosaur fossil market, Sotheby’s estimated that a T. rex skull put up for auction would fetch $15 million to $20 million. But at the Friday sale, the copy sold for $6.1 million ($9.17 million), including fees, to an anonymous buyer.

Cassandra Hatton, global division head, Science & Popular Culture at Sotheby’s, with the skull of Tyrannosaurus rex unearthed in Harding County, South Dakota.Credit:AP

The auction raised questions about whether the moment of the dinosaur gold rush — which has upset many academic paleontologists, who fear their research will be turned into trophies — showed signs of abating activity.

The New York sale comes after the planned auction of a larger T. rex specimen, estimated to fetch $15 million to $25 million, was scrapped by Christie’s in Hong Kong after questions were raised about how much real dinosaur bone was included .

The questions about the Christie’s T. rex specimen, nicknamed Shen and auctioned by an anonymous consignor, revolved around how much of the skeleton was replica bone from another dinosaur – a common practice in skeleton mounting.

The replica bones used at Shen were casts of a famous specimen called Stan, which broke a record for fossil sales when it fetched $31.8 million at a Christie’s auction two years ago, giving the industry a boost. boosted.

The dinosaur skull was expected to fetch $20 million.Credit:AP

Sotheby’s said the skull sold at Friday’s auction, nicknamed Maximus, was augmented with resin casts from another T. rex owned by the anonymous seller, who also prepared the specimen for auction. Buyers were told by the auction house that the skull “contains 30 bones out of the estimated total of 39 bones”, and were given a diagram of a skull with the actual bone colored in. (From the diagram, a potential buyer could see: for example, that not all of the T. rex’s teeth were real.)

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The skull, which weighs more than 200 pounds, was discovered on private property in an area of ​​northwestern South Dakota known for being rich in fossils, the auction house said.

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