The world’s largest Triceratops skeleton ever discovered was sold at auction for roughly $US7.7 million (around $10 million AUD) on Thursday, according to a new report from Reuters. The auction estimate before bidding started was that it would only fetch about $2 million.
The dinosaur skeleton, nicknamed “Big John,” was discovered on private property in South Dakota in 2014. Standing roughly 2.44 m high at the hips, the triceratops is roughly 7.01 m long and the skull alone is almost 2.74 m in length.
The unique skeleton, which is estimated to be 66 million years old, is roughly 60% complete and the skull is 75% complete, an exceedingly high percentage for modern paleontology.
“The overall quality of Big John really deserved this price,” Iacopo Briano, a paleontologist, told NBC News. “For a triceratops and for an herbivore. This is unbelievable record.”
The skeleton was sold at a French auction to a private buyer who wanted to remain anonymous, according to NBC News. But we do know through that unnamed person’s representative that the buyer is an American, who is, “absolutely thrilled with the idea of being able to bring a piece like this to his personal use.”
And there’s the rub. It’s rather controversial for skeletons like this to be in private hands, with museums unable to acquire these rare specimens for public display because the prices are simply too high.
From the BBC:
Auction experts say demand for rare dinosaur fossils has inflated prices at the expense of museums, which often cannot afford to buy them.
Auctioneer Alexandre Giquello said the selling price of Big John was another sign of how wealthy private collectors were “creating a new market” for dinosaur fossils.
Last year, a near-complete specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex was sold at auction for a world-record price of $US31.8m.
To quote Indiana Jones, that belongs in a museum. But you can’t really blame the super-wealthy people who buy these things. If you were rich, you know you’d probably do the same thing. Who wouldn’t want a gigantic triceratops in their living room, or wherever rich people put these things.