Paleontologist Calls Gorgosaurus Sale a 'Disaster'

Rare skeleton was sold for $6.1M
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2022 12:50 PM CDT
Paleontologists Criticize Gorgosaurus Auction
A Gorgosaurus dinosaur skeleton, the first to be offered at auction, is displayed at Sotheby's New York, Tuesday, July 5, 2022.   (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A rare and exquisite Gorgosaurus skeleton sold for $6.1 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York City Thursday—but since the anonymous buyer apparently wasn't a museum or an unusually wealthy paleontologist, scientists say they find the sale concerning. Gorgosaurus was a distant—and faster—relative of T. Rex that lived around 77 million years ago, the BBC reports. There are only 20 known Gorgosaurus skeletons in the world, and this one, found on private land in Montana, is the first to be sold privately. The skeleton, which measures 9 feet tall and 22 feet long, was sold to an anonymous buyer.

If the skeleton had been found 50 miles to the north, on the other side of the Canadian border, it would have belonged to the public. But American law allows fossils found on private land to be sold for profit, the New York Times reports. Thomas Carr, a Carthage College paleontologist who studies Gorgosaurus and other tyrannosauroids, calls the sale a "disaster." He tells the Times he is "totally disgusted, distressed, and disappointed because of the far-reaching damage the loss of these specimens will have for science." Other paleontologists say that because of the potential for profit, ranchers and other landowners have become less likely to allow nonprofit researchers on their land.

Sotheby's exec Cassandra Hatton says there is a role for the private sector in the preservation of dinosaur skeletons, noting the "great museums of the world all began as private collections." She says that Sotheby's only previous auction of a dinosaur skeleton was won by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, which paid $8.4 million for a T. rex skeleton named "Sue." The buyer this time around will have the right to name the Gorgosaurus skeleton, and the most popular suggestion on social media has been "Gorgeous George." The US doesn't restrict the export of fossils, so the skeleton could end up overseas, AFP reports. (Read more dinosaurs stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.