A 76 million-year-old skeleton of the T. rex relative Gorgosaurus will be sold at a Sotheby's auction later this month in New York. This is the first specimen of its kind available for private ownership—all other known Gorgosaurus skeletons are in museums, per the Associated Press.
The dinosaur lived about 80 million to 73 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous— about 10 million years before the T. rex. Like T. rex, the Gorgosaurus, which means “fierce lizard,” had sharp teeth and tiny arms. But it weighed only up to about 2 tons, while a T. rex could weigh as much as 8 tons.
This specimen was uncovered in 2018 at the Judith River Formation near Havre, Montana. Sotheby’s estimates it will sell for at least $5 million and perhaps as much as $8 million, per the AP.
“This specimen, which was a very large, mature individual at the time of death, has a particularly well-preserved skull, including a left maxilla and an assortment of cranial bones. Crucially the specimen also contains the three major bones which create the orbit, the feature which distinguishes the Gorgosaurus from the T. rex,” Sotheby's says, per USA Today’s Camille Fine.
The skeleton measures nearly 10 feet tall and 22 feet long. It’s “particularly exceptional” because of the rarity of this species found south of the Canadian border, Sotheby’s writes in an Instagram post.
“In my career, I have had the privilege of handling and selling many exceptional and unique objects, but few have the capacity to inspire wonder and capture imaginations quite like this unbelievable Gorgosaurus skeleton,” Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture says, reports the AP.
But though the skeleton can legally be sold, not all paleontologists are happy about it.
"Any time that a vertebrate fossil is being sold, potentially privately, it's disturbing," Gregory Erickson, a paleobiologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee who is not involved with the auction, tells Live Science’s Laura Geggel. "It steals away the potential for scientific advancement. But then again, in this case as near as I can tell, the specimen has been legally collected, so it's fair game. That's where our laws are."
Kat Schroeder, a biologist at the University of New Mexico, also tells the publication that the private sale is “disappointing.”
“We shall have to hope that if this specimen is as nice as it seems, that whomever ends up with it will be willing to donate it to a museum," Schroeder tells Live Science.