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T. rex skull could sell for $20 million at auction

Amarachi Orie, CNN

A tyrannosaurus rex skull is expected to fetch up to $20 million at auction next month, according to Sotheby’s.

The skull, which has been named Maximus, is one of the most complete of its kind ever found, the auction house said in a press release on Tuesday, adding that it represents a “rare and important paleontological find”. .

Weighing over 200 pounds and measuring 6 feet and 7.5 inches (2 meters) tall, the colossal skull could become one of the most valuable fossils sold at auction when it is offered during a sale at New York.

Describing the fossil as “extremely rare”, the auction house’s global head of science and popular culture, Cassandra Hatton, said in a statement that the sale was an “unprecedented moment”.

Maximus was discovered on private land in the widely studied Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota. The skull belonged to an adult dinosaur, and all of its “tooth-bearing jaw elements” were preserved along with most of its external bones. The remains of the skeleton were largely destroyed by erosion as the excavation site was badly weathered over time, the auction house said.

“This T. rex fossil is an extraordinary find,” said Henry Galiano, natural history consultant at Sotheby’s, in a press release. Unearthed in one of the most concentrated areas for T. rex remains, the skull retained much of its original shape and surface features with even the smallest and most delicate bones intact. , with an extremely high degree of scientific integrity.

“Without the work of experienced field paleontologists who carefully collected and preserved this skull, it could have eroded and been lost to science forever,” he added.

Fossil auction controversy

Last month marked 25 years since a nicknamed T. rex prosecute became the first dinosaur ever to be auctioned, which sold the fossil for $8.36 million. Described by Hutton as “the largest and most complete T. rex ever discovered”, Sue was also found in the Hell Creek Formation, which has produced more T. rex remains than any other place in the world. according to Sotheby’s.

The 1997 sale, however, sparked controversy, with some experts fearing that specimens in private collections were no longer available for scientific study. Paleontologists have also argued that the growing market for collectors is making it more difficult for them to carry out excavation work on private land.

“In many areas where dinosaur fossils are found, it is becoming increasingly difficult for professional paleontologists to obtain permission to collect fossils from private property due to the commercial value of the fossils,” wrote paleontologist John W. Hoganson in a 1998 edition of North Dakota. geological survey newsletter.

This is a debate that has surrounded large fossil auctions ever since. Earlier this year, Sotheby’s sold the skeleton of a Gorgosaurus, a relative of T. rex, for just over $6 million, raising further concerns among experts. It was the only such fossil ever offered for private ownership, the other known specimens all being held in museum collections.

“In my view, there are only downsides,” P. David Polly, professor and chair of the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, told CNN. at the time of the sale of Gorgosaurus. “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 really should be deposited in a public repository where it can be studied – where the general public can learn from it and benefit from it.

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