The skeleton of the largest specimen of triceratops discovered so far was awarded this Thursday at the Drouot auction house in Paris for 6.651 million euros (7.6 million dollars). The specimen lived about 66 million years ago in what is now the northern United States.
The buyer is “an American collector” who does not want his name to be made public, as sources of the sale have explained to Efe, who emphasized that the triceratops will return to the country from which it came. Alexandre Giquello, the organizer of the auction, and his team, had set a starting estimate at between 1.2 and 1.5 million euros. But I was hoping that the final price would be well above that range.
The specimen of triceratops, one of the last species of dinosaurs before their extinction in the Cretaceous, was put up for sale in a new edition of what Drouot calls Naturalia, an auction that for five years has been dedicated to natural curiosities that they offer spectacularity and aesthetics at the same time.
Big Johnue, as it was baptized when it was discovered in 2014 by Walter Stein, a specialized researcher, was found in a site in an area known as Hell Creek, in the State of South Dakota. The excavation campaigns lasted the following year and made it possible to reconstitute 60% of the skeleton in a meticulous work that was carried out later and for six months in Italy, paleontology expert Iacopo Briano explained to Efe. The assembly of the different fragments with resin and their consolidation in the laboratory by means of a metallic structure with the missing bones allowed the skeleton to stand eight meters long and slightly less than three meters high.
Briano acknowledged that it is difficult to accurately estimate the actual weight of the animal, but in any case it was “several tons, like a large pachyderm.” What has been determined is that its size was “between 5% and 10% larger” than the largest specimen of triceratops known so far.
The researchers found two wounds that were presumably made in fights with other dinosaurs -probably for the defense of the territory or for their sexual reproduction-, one on the tail and, above all, another on the head that caused a gap of about 30 centimeters on a bone. A paleopathology team that carried out a macroscopic and microscopic study concluded that this perforation was made by the skull of another triceratops. Neither of these two wounds was fatal and there are signs of a healing process in the bone. In fact, given the large size of Big John, it is considered that the animal must have been quite mature and, according to Briano, “it could have simply died of old age”.
Giquello emphasized that they never put specimens that have a particular interest for research up for public sale so as not to create competition with museums. In this case, he recalled that the triceratops is such a well-known dinosaur that this specimen offered limited appeal to scientists.