This fossil fetched a fortune.
The 77-million-year-old Gorgosaurus skeleton sold for $US6.1 million (almost $8.8 million in Australian dollars) to an unknown buyer at an auction at the Sotheby’s auction house in New York on July 28.
The buyer also won the right to give the dinosaur skeleton a name.
The Gorgosaurus skeleton was one of the most valuable dinosaurs ever sold, Sotheby’s said in a statement.
It was also the first Gorgosaurus ever to appear at an auction and is one of only 20 Gorgosaurus skeletons known to exist.
The dinosaur belonging to the Tyrannosaurid family measured 3m tall and 6.7m long. A typical adult weighed about two tonnes, slightly smaller than its more famous relative, the Tyrannosaurus rex.
Palaeontologists* said it was fiercer* and faster than the T-rex, with a stronger bite of about 42,000 newtons* compared to the 35,000 newton bite of a T-rex.
The carnivore* reigned during the Late Cretaceous* period in an area now known as western North America.
The fossil was found in the Judith River Formation near Havre, in the US state of Montana, in 2018, and was a rare discovery south of the Canadian border.
“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,” said Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture, Cassandra Hatton, before the auction.
But scientists and dino experts weren’t so excited about the sale.
Carthage College palaeontologist Associate Professor Thomas Carr said in an interview with The New York Times that he was “disgusted” by the lack of consideration for the scarcity* of fossils available to the public.
“I’m totally disgusted, distressed and disappointed because of the far-reaching damage the loss of these specimens* will have for science,” he said. “This is a disaster.”
The expert said there were about 50 T-rex specimens – from full skeletons to singular bones – in public trust for research access, while the same amount were privately kept.
The number of Gorgosaurus specimens available for studying was even smaller.
“The value of dinosaurs isn’t the price someone will pay,” A/Prof Carr said.
“It’s the information they contain.”
The sale marked the first time that Sotheby’s had auctioned a full dinosaur skeleton since it sold Sue the T-rex in 1997 for $US8.36 million.
Sotheby’s did not reveal the identity of the buyer.
Unlike other countries, the US does not restrict the sale or export of fossils, meaning the skeleton could end up overseas.
- palaeontologists: scientist who studies prehistoric life forms using fossils.
- fiercer: more physically violent and aggressive than others
- newton: a unit used to measure force, equal to the force that moves a mass of one kilogram one metre in one second
- carnivore: meat-eater, animal that feeds on other animals
- Late Cretaceous: the period between 100.5 million and 66 million years ago
- scarcity: in short supply, when something is rare, limited, hard to find
- specimens: a sample or example of something
- What did the buyer pay for the skeleton in US dollars?
- The purchase also bought them the right to do what?
- How old is the Gorgosaurus fossil?
- How many Gorgosaurus skeletons are known to exist worldwide?
- How does the strength of the Gorgosaurus bite compare to the T-rex in newtons?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What name would you give Gorgosaurus?
If you bought Gorgosaurus and had the right to give it a new name, what would you choose?
Choose a name and write a paragraph explaining why your choice is the perfect for Gorgosaurus.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
“The person who buys the Gorgosaurus skeleton should donate it to a museum!”
Do you agree or disagree with this statement? List reasons for and against.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
There is some vivid vocabulary being used in the article, and I am not just talking about the glossary words. Go through the article and highlight the high-level language that you are impressed by in yellow.
See if you can borrow two of these wow words to reuse in your own way.
Remember vocabulary is a great way to connect with the audience, but you need to think about who your audience is so you make great word choices.
Who will the audience be in your recycled sentences?