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‘Big John’ the triceratops fetches big money in Paris

AP, October 25, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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Big John the triceratops made for a striking window display ahead of his Thursday auction at the Drouot auction house in Paris. The world’s largest known triceratops, Big John is over 66 million years old and with an 8m long skeleton. Picture: AFP media_cameraBig John the triceratops made for a striking window display ahead of his Thursday auction at the Drouot auction house in Paris. The world’s largest known triceratops, Big John is over 66 million years old and with an 8m long skeleton. Picture: AFP


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The world’s biggest triceratops skeleton, affectionately known as “Big John,” was sold for 6.6 million euros ($10.3 million AUD) Thursday to a private collector at a Paris auction house.

The enormous skeleton, estimated to be over 66 million years old, was found in 2014 in South Dakota, US. The triceratops dinosaur species is known for the distinctive three horns on its head.

Big John, named after the owner of the land where it was found, is certified* by the Guinness World Records as the largest documented* skeleton of a triceratops. The dinosaur died in an ancient flood plain on the island continent stretching from present-day Alaska to Mexico, allowing the conservation* of its skeleton in mud.

media_cameraBig John fetched over $10 million AUD at auction in Paris, a record sum for a triceratops skeleton, paid by an anonymous collector from the US. Picture: AFP

The skeleton is 7.15m long and stands 2.7m high at the hips. The skull represents more than one third of its total length, with two large horns over 1.1m long each.

Big John’s skeleton is more than 60 per cent complete and its skull more than 75 per cent complete, making it unique.

Auctioneer Alexandre Giquello said the hefty price tag was “a record for Europe.”

“The overall quality of Big John really deserved this price,” said palaeontology* expert Iacopo Briano. “For a triceratops and for an herbivore*, this is an unbelievable record.”

media_cameraBig John caught the eye of Parisians during his period on display, including local children. Picture: AFP

Last year, a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton reached the equivalent of almost $43 million AUD at an auction in New York, becoming the most expensive dinosaur ever sold.

Big John was sold to a private US buyer who asked to remain anonymous*.

“It’s being acquired* by an American collector … absolutely thrilled with the idea of being able to bring a piece like this to his personal use,” said Djuan Rivers, a representative of the buyer.

“The history behind this and the duration of it is absolutely impressive. So to be able to be a part of preserving something of this nature … it’s also something extremely special.”

media_cameraEasy does it: back in August, workers carefully brought Big John’s skull into the gallery space where it was displayed ahead of the auction on October 21. Picture: AFP


  • certified: officially recognised, guaranteed, reliably endorsed
  • documented: supported by written records
  • conservation: protection, saving
  • palaeontology: the study of the history of life on Earth as based on fossils
  • herbivore: plant-eating animal
  • anonymous: unidentified, unnamed, unknown identity
  • acquired: bought, obtained, gained


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  1. What is Big John’s estimated age?
  2. How long is the skeleton?
  3. What percentage of Big John’s skeleton is complete?
  4. For whom is Big John named?
  5. How much did the private collector pay for Big John?


1. Exhibiting your very own dinosaur skull
If you had a spare $10 million and were willing to buy your very own dinosaur skeleton, where would you keep it and how would you display or use it in your home?

Draw a sketch of where you would keep it in your house or on your property (presuming you had a pretty large house as you’ve just spent $10 million on a skeleton!). You can be as creative as you like!

Would you allow others to come see and experience it (researchers, students etc.) or just keep it for private use?

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; History; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
How do you think mud conserves a skeleton? Do you think there are more skeletons of these huge dinosaurs to be found? Who would be searching for them and why?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science; History; Critical and Creative Thinking

Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

Extra Reading in animals