Fossil Skeleton of Cretaceous Predator Likely to Fetch 1 Million USD at Auction

The trend for important scientific specimens to go under the hammer continues with the auction of a nearly complete Tyrannosaur (T. bataar) in New York.   The eight metre long, fully mounted specimen of this Late Cretaceous terror is likely to sell for more than one million USD at auction.  This may be a far cry from the huge sums paid in the mid 1990s prior to the global downturn, but it still puts such a specimen beyond the reach of most public institutions with their restricted budgets.

The specimen represents a seventy-five percent complete skeleton of a Tarbosaurus (T. bataar), closely related to the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex.  Whilst T. rex stomped across western North America, Tarbosaurus was the apex predator in eastern Asia – Mongolia.

The first fossils of this meat-eating dinosaur, consisting of skull material and some back-bones were unearthed by a joint Soviet/Mongolian scientific expedition to the Gobi desert in 1946, but it was not until 1955 that this dinosaur was formally named and described.  The eminent Russian palaeontologist Evgeny Aleksandrovich Maleev noted how similar these fossils were to Tyrannosaurus rex from North America and accordingly he named this new dinosaur Tyrannosaurus bataar.  However, in the mid 1960’s a review of Tyrannosaur skull material and body fossils from Mongolia and China was undertaken and in the light of this new study the name Tarbosaurus bataar was established.  The exact taxonomic relationship between these two prehistoric animals is hotly debated, but team members at Everything Dinosaur note that in official press releases and auction notices the lot is described as Tyrannosaurus bataar.  We suspect this is a bid to raise the potential price for this particular fossil specimen.  After all, T. rex is likely to sell much better than the lesser known Tarbosaurus bataar.

The auction is scheduled for Sunday May 20th and it will be held at the New York auction company, Heritage Auctions.

The Mounted Tarbosaurus Skeleton under the Hammer

Dinosaur under the Hammer

Picture Credit:Heritage Auctions

There have been a number of high profile dinosaur and other prehistoric animal auctions held over the last few years.  The price of dinosaur fossils have rocketed as wealthy individuals, even some film stars have become involved, keen to purchase their very own piece of palaeontology.  However, not all the auction lots get snapped up faster than a T. rex biting into a Triceratops.

Back in 2009, a large, nearly complete of an adult Tyrannosaurus rex went under the hammer.  The mounted skeleton, nicknamed “Samson” at first could not find a buyer, but eventually the story ended happily when this particular predator was purchased by a public body and the skeleton is now on permanent public display.

To read more about “Samson”: T. rex Specimen up for Auction

The Tarbosaurus, once the property of a private collector based in the UK, is certainly a fine specimen and it has been mounted in what we at Everything Dinosaur call an “active mount”, with the carnivore posed in a realistic running position.

David Herskowitz, Heritage Auction’s Director of Natural History wrote in a statement:

“This beautiful Tyrannosaurus skeleton is one of the most complete, most spectacular specimens that we’ve ever seen.  They’re incredibly rare to come across in any condition, let alone one as pristine as this.”

The exhibit measures nearly 8 metres long and represents a sub-adult specimen.  Palaeontologists believe that this Late Cretaceous carnivore could have reached lengths in excess of 12 metres.  The specimen is believed to have come from the Gobi desert region, although the exact location and provenance of the fossil material is not known.  The British collector began assembling the fossils, before shipping them to the United States for final preparation and mounting.

The auction house has expressed a wish to have the specimen retained for scientific study and public display.  However, with a sale such as this, it is just as likely that the exhibit will end up in the collection of a private individual with no desire to allow public or scientific access.

The Auction House Director commented:

“We’re hoping it’s going to be a museum to give this specimen a proper home.”

We shall have to wait and see, but with an auction price likely to be in excess of $1 million USD, it is very probable  that this fossil collection will prove to be beyond the budget of most public institutions.

This article represents a personal landmark for Everything Dinosaur. It is the 1800th article published on our web log, roll on number 2,000.

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