A bidder with a lot of money — and a lot of room — could be the owner of a 66-million-year-old full-sized skeleton of a giant triceratops going up for auction in October.
The fossilized dinosaur, which has been named "Big John," is expected to bring in at least 1.2 million Euros or $1.4 million in U.S. dollars, according to Paris auctioneers Binoche et Giquello, reports CNN. It will be auctioned off on Oct. 21 at the Drouot auction house in Paris.
The triceratops' skeleton's skull alone measures 8 feet, 7 inches long, and is 6 feet 7 inches wide. Its largest two horns are 3 feet 7 inches long and more than 11.8 inches wide at their base, according to a press release by the auctioneers.
The dinosaur was discovered in an ancient flood plain now known as the Hell Creek formation in South Dakota by geologist Walter W. Stein Bill in May 2014. It had lived in Laramidia, an island continent stretching from present-day Mexico to Alaska.
The skeleton was excavated in 2015 and restored in Italy, according to the auctioneers. It was assembled again on Aug. 31 in Paris so it could be presented to buyers.
Dinosaur skeletons bring in millions of dollars when they are auctioned, the company said. An allosaurus skeleton sold in Paris in 2018 for 3 million Euros, or $3.5 million in U.S. dollars, while Christie's sold the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex in 2020 for a record $31.8 million, including fees, according to The New York Times.
The triceratops' skeleton is more than 60% complete, with its skull being 75% complete, reports CNN. Big John did suffer injuries during his life, including a laceration in his collar that the auctioneers said came from a smaller triceratops and likely occurred while the two massive animals were fighting over territory or a mate.
The U.K.'s Natural History Museum says the triceratops, a plant-eater, had a skull that is one of the "most striking" of any land animal, considering its three horns, parrot-like beak, and a "frill" that could spread to either protect its neck or attract a mate. The auctioneers said that Big John, at just over 26 feet in total length, is the largest triceratops specimen discovered.
The species lived in the Late Cretaceous period 66-68 million years ago in what is now the United States.
Paleontologists, though, have spoken out against such auctions, with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology last year writing to Christie's auction house, when the Tyrannosaurus rex was being sold, that sales to private entities mean fossil specimens are "potentially lost to science."
"Even if made accessible to scientists, information contained within privately owned specimens and future access cannot be guaranteed, and therefore verification of scientific claims (the essence of scientific progress) cannot be performed," the SVP wrote.
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