Diplodocus Fossil to be Auctioned in the UK

The fossilised remains of a Diplodocus longus are due to be sold at an auction in the United Kingdom next month.  The specimen, nicknamed “Misty” measures approximately seventeen metres long and dates from the Late Jurassic of Wyoming.  The fossils are estimated to be around 150 million years old and as articulated Sauropod skeletons are extremely rare in the fossil record, the lot is likely to sell for around £600,000 GBP ($960,000 USD).

The Diplodocus is one of a number of rare fossils and other artefacts being sold by Summers Place Auctions, based in West Sussex (England), on November 27th as part of an auction entitled “Evolution”.  Other lots include Dodo remains, a specimen of the Jurassic marine reptile Ichthyosaurus communis from Dorset, which itself is estimated to fetch up to £80,000 GBP ($128,000 USD) and a rare, stuffed Tarpan.  The Tarpan is an extinct sub-species of the Eurasian Wild Horse.

The Diplodocus Being Prepared for Auction Surrounded by Other Auction Lots

Sauropods under the hammer!

Sauropods under the hammer!

The fossils, especially the Diplodocus exhibit will attract a great deal of interest no doubt.  However, we at Everything Dinosaur remain concerned when such specimens are offered up for sale in this way.  The specimen was excavated from the privately owned Dana Quarry in Wyoming, whilst there are restrictions placed on the movement and sale of fossils found on Bureau of Land Management land within the United States, as the Diplodocus fossils come from private property, these restrictions do not apply.

The concern is that specimens such as this would end up in the hands of a wealthy individual or corporation, who subsequently, may not permit the specimen to be used in further research.  Therefore, a potentially scientifically valuable fossil is lost to the scientific community.  Sales of this kind, may also indirectly encourage illegal excavations and the smuggling of fossils.  High profile sales of dinosaur fossils, ones that fetch hundreds of thousands of pounds, could motivate individuals to break existing laws in a bid to exploit the situation and to profit from the high prices paid for such specimens.

The counter argument to this is that a large number of  important specimens would never been found at all, if it were not for the activities of professional fossil dealers.  Many significant fossils could erode away if it were not for the commercial companies and individuals that constantly explore fossil bearing strata in a bid to discover potentially valuable specimens.

The Diplodocus, believed to represent a female, was found in 2009 by Benjamin and Jacob, the sons of palaeontologist Raimund Albersdoerfer, who were exploring the Dana Quarry site.  It took the dinosaur hunters a total of nine weeks to excavate all the fossil material representing the Diplodocus from the dig site.  The fossil material was then sent to a specialist laboratory in Holland for further preparation before being offered for sale.

Errol Fuller, one of the people responsible for managing the exhibits to go into the auction commented:

“It’s perfectly legal to bring it from America and legal to move it to any country in the world.  Museum workers will sometimes try to stop these things… but almost every great fossil discovery was made by fossil collectors or dealers.”

The auction of specimens such as this have proved controversial.  In May of last year, Everything Dinosaur reported on the seizure of a Tarbosaurus fossilised skeleton that had been auctioned in New York.  Allegations that the fossil had been illegally removed from Mongolia were later proven.  The fossil was recently repatriated to its country of origin.

To read more about the Tarbosaurus skeleton being seized: Tarbosaurus Fossil Seized by U.S. Authorities

Another high profile auction of fossils is due to take place just a few days before the Diplodocus goes under the hammer.  Bonhams (New York), on the 19th November will be overseeing the auction of a Chasmosaurine dinosaur and a suspected Nanotyrannus, a lot which has been entitled the “duelling dinosaurs”.  In this case, the fossils originate from Montana.

To read more about the “duelling dinosaurs” auction: “Duelling Dinosaurs” likely to set World Record at Auction

Let’s hope that whatever, the outcome, the fossils and other artefacts that are part of this auction are made available for further study should the need arise.

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