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Rare dinosaur sold for €1.13 million

Fossilized skeleton of a dinosaur that lived between 156 million and 151 million years ago


On June 4, an anonymous collector paid €1.13 million for the fossilized skeleton of a dinosaur that lived between 156 million and 151 million years ago. Many paleontologists were unhappy about the auction, held at the Aguttes auction house in Paris, because the specimen has not yet been identified and may belong to a new species, leading to a discussion about the recent trend of treating fossils as works of art. Experts suspect that the skeleton, which is 9 meters (m) tall and 2.6 m long, is a new species from the Allosaurus genus, which includes carnivores smaller and older than the Tyrannosaurus rex. The skull and bones of up to 70% of the skeleton were excavated in the US state of Wyoming in 2013, although an expert who analyzed the fossil suspects it could comprise bones from two specimens. In the USA, it is legal to sell fossils found on private property. Days before the auction, the US Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), which represents students and professionals from the field, asked Aguttes to cancel the sale. “Scientifically important vertebrate fossils are part of our collective natural heritage and deserve to be held in public trust,” the SVP wrote in an open letter. The society expressed concern about the auction house’s suggestion that the new owner could have a say in naming the species. “The naming of new species is governed by the International Code of Nomenclature, which awards priority to the first validly published name, not to the owner of the specimen that formed the basis of that name.” According to Aguttes, the new owner plans to lend the fossil to a museum to be studied. For the SVP, it is unethical to name a new species based on a specimen that is not stored in a recognized and curated collection.