July 21, 2024

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Apex, the largest stegosaurus fossil ever found, is up for auction

Apex, the largest stegosaurus fossil ever found, is up for auction

In May 2022, Jason Cooper, a commercial paleontologist, went for a walk around his property near Colorado’s aptly named Dinosaur Town with a friend and found part of a femur bone sticking out of some rocks.

This femur yielded a Stegosaurus fossil, among the largest and most complete ever found, which was later named “Apex.” Next July, Sotheby’s will sell Apex at auction for an estimated $4 million to $6 million, making the skeleton the latest flashpoint in a long-running debate over the private fossil trade.

Dinosaur fossils have fetched soaring prices at auction houses since 1997, when Sotheby’s sold Tyrannosaurus rex to the Field Museum in Chicago for $8.36 million. In 2020, “Stan,” another largely complete T. rex skeleton, sold at Christie’s for $31.8 million.

Such pricing has raised serious concerns among academic paleontologists, Stuart Sumida said. Vice President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Many of them have seen excavations that might reveal scientific secrets funneled into the hands of wealthy private collectors rather than toward research institutions in recent decades.

Mr. Cooper and his colleagues discovered a Stegosaurus headed to Sotheby’s in 2023. Excavations on his property have yielded a number of Jurassic-era dinosaurs, many of which Mr. Cooper has donated to institutions such as the Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah. and the Frost Museum of Science in Miami.

Mr Cooper described the Apex Stegosaurus as a unique and scientifically important specimen. Skeletons – even partial ones – of toothed-tailed, plate-supported herbivores are rare. The skeleton contains material from about 70 percent of the animal’s bones. At 11 feet long and over 20 feet long, Apex is twice the size of “Sophie.” Most intact Stegosaurus specimens are knownIt has unusual proportions, remarkably long legs and square bottom panels.

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The specimen was also discovered with skin impressions, possibly from the neck, which will be offered as part of the sale.

Mr. Cooper oversaw the preparation and installation of the Stegosaurus, performing 3D scans of the existing bones and reversing sample elements to fill in the gaps. The team also collected extensive contextual data, which they believe could be attractive to potential buyers. Information includes a detailed site survey, quarry maps and other documents

Mr. Cooper also invited several paleontologists to examine the specimen.

“If you combine the size, completeness and preservation of the bones, it’s the best stegosaurus I’ve seen,” said Rod Sheetz, curator of paleontology at Brigham Young University, who inspected it on Mr. Cooper’s property.

Cassandra Hatton, head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s, said the auction house worked closely with Mr Cooper to enhance the scientific legitimacy of this privately sold dinosaur mount, with the aim of creating a model for future auctions.

“This is the first time a specimen has been auctioned as we have been working together since the time it was excavated,” she said. “This is the most transparent sale of a dinosaur ever.”

But Jim Kirkland, a paleontologist in Utah, declined to endorse the stegosaurus when invited by Mr. Cooper. “It sounds interesting, but I’m not going to promote something that’s going to be auctioned,” he wrote in an email. “I was going to link it directly to museums, but not this one.”

While anything can happen at a public auction, both Mr. Cooper and Ms. Hutton expressed their hope that the Apex will eventually find its way into a scholarly institution — whether through direct purchase or via a donation from a private collector. The team collected data and documentation not only to reassure potential buyers of the specimens’ authenticity but also to help museums seamlessly integrate this specimen into a research collection.

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“Whoever buys this also has the right to come onto my property and collect contextual information,” Mr Cooper said. “An art collector might not be very interested in this, but for a museum, this would be really cool.”

However, Dr. Sumida said the potential price tag of Stegosaurus may be beyond the reach of many institutions. He said the costs of studying an already installed and rebuilt specimen can be higher than just the purchase price. Reconstruction and installation of excavations is Art as much as science – Options can be specific Used to trick beginners By blurring the lines that define the true parts of any given bone.

“If the sample is as scientifically important as it is claimed, then they are treating it completely wrong,” Dr. Sumida said.

Cary Woodruff, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, agrees that public auctions were often “scientific slaughterhouses.” But Dr Woodruff – who also examined the specimen before the auction agreement – pointed out that the compilation of records, photographs and detailed digital scans of fossils sold commercially is something other sellers should emulate. That way, he said, “at least a remnant of scientific data can exist if the sample doesn’t end up trusting the public.”

However, in the end, Dr. Woodruff agreed that the public trust is where these fossils belong.

“If a wealthy person is interested in how they can work with a scientific institution to contribute to scientific knowledge and progress, I hope samples like this will attract their attention,” he said.

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