Credit: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images
Skeleton of mystery dinosaur species sells for $2.4 million at auction
The near-complete skeleton of a 150-million-year-old dinosaur has gone under the hammer for more than $2.36 million (€2 million) in Paris. The auction was held on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.
Discovered in Wyoming, US, and dug up between 2013 and 2015, the fossil measures 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) tall and is almost 9 meters (30 feet) long. Scientists are yet to confirm the exact species of the dinosaur, which has been identified only as a carnivorous theropod.
According to the auction house Aguttes, two paleontologists closely examined the fossil ahead of yesterday's sale. They say that it most closely resembles an Allosaurus, a dinosaur that roamed the Earth between 155 and 150 million years ago during the late Jurassic period.
But a number of anatomical differences, including the structure of the fossil's pelvis, skull and teeth, mean that it could yet be classified as a completely new genus of dinosaur. The identities of the buyer and private seller also remain unconfirmed.
The fossil is in reportedly good condition, with around 70% of the skeleton remaining intact. Aguttes said that part of the sale proceeds will be given to two wildlife charities.
With unanswered questions around the dinosaur's identity, a number of scientists have spoken out against the auction. Last month, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which represents over 2,000 professionals and students, called for the sale to be canceled.
In an open letter to Aguttes, the organization requested that the specimen be "held in public trust," thereby allowing experts to "reexamine, re-measure and reinterpret" the fossil. The letter also challenged claims that the new owner might be able to name the unidentified species.
The auction brochure had suggested that the dinosaur "could be named after them or after one of their children, with the agreement of the scientist who formally describes the species."
The sale marks the latest in a series of high-profile paleontological sales arranged by Aguttes. In 2016, the auction house sold a confirmed Allosaurus skeleton for $1.32 million (€1.13 million), while last year, a complete mammoth skeleton went under the hammer for more than $641,000 (€548,000).