Whoever Bought This Giant Gorgosaurus Fossil Can Name It Too
This story has been updated to reflect the final sale price.
The fossil was discovered in 2018 on private land in the Judith River Formation in Choteau County, Montana, and has 79 bone elements, according to Sotheby’s. All other known Gorgosaurus skeletons are in museum collections, making it the only such specimen offered for private ownership, which some scientists consider problematic for scientific study.
“During my career, I have had the privilege of handling and selling many exceptional and unique objects, but few have the ability to inspire wonder and capture the imagination like this incredible Gorgosaurus skeleton,” said Cassandra Hatton, global head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s. , said in a press release.
« Excavated only a few years ago, a Gorgosaurus has never been auctioned before, and the opportunity to share this dinosaur with the public for the first time is a tremendous pleasure and a highlight of my career. »
Fossil auctions and ethics
“The professional paleontology community eagerly anticipated the T. rex auction due to uncertainty over whether the important specimen would end up in a private collection, rendering it unavailable for scientific study and exhibition. public, or in a public repository in this country, » he wrote. « The ultimate concern was the effect the sale would have on the science of paleontology. »
“In my view, there are only downsides,” said P. David Polly, professor and chair of the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington. “While there is certainly no law in the United States that supports this for fossils that come from private land, it is easy for me as a scientist to argue that this fossil is important to all of us and should really be deposited in a public repository where it can be studied — where the general public can learn from it and enjoy it. »
Fossils on private land are owned by private individuals who can do with them what they want, while fossils on public land are regulated by the federal government and are essentially owned by the government or « the people, if you will, » a Polly said. « When a fossil is auctioned off like this and it’s expected to fetch millions of dollars, one of the things that does that is to tell private landowners that the fossils on their land should really be monetized. »
Other scientific experts, however, have acknowledged that the museum collection has historically included acquisitions from commercial sources.
« It makes me sad that there’s a price tag on dinosaurs, » but « it’s not a black or white issue, » said Gregory Erickson, professor of vertebrate anatomy and paleobiology at Florida. State University at Tallahassee. « There is a history of museums buying commercial specimens. »
« It’s a brave new world for our science, » said vertebrate paleontologist Steve Brusatte, professor and personal director of paleontology and evolution at the University of Edinburgh, via email. « In a world where dinosaur skeletons fetch millions, what about scientists and museums, who can’t afford such inflated prices? »
And according to Polly, what would be the best result of this auction? “Whoever sells it should listen to what I just said and have a conversion experience and donate it to a museum,” he said. « Second best would be for someone rich to hear this kind of message and donate a lot of money (to a museum) so it could be bought for a museum. »