Biggest Triceratops Fossil Sells for Far More Than Expected

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2021 7:59 AM CDT
Updated Oct 22, 2021 5:53 AM CDT
Largest Known Triceratops Fossil Is Up for Grabs
Auctioneer Alexandre Giquello poses in front of Big John, the largest known triceratops skeleton, as he is being assembled in a showroom in Paris, on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

(Newser) Update: The biggest triceratops skeleton ever found has sold for more than four times the expected price—and as paleontologists feared, the buyer wasn't a museum. The Drouot auction house says the fossil, known as "Big John," was bought for $7.7 million by a private collector in the US who fell "in love" with the dinosaur after a viewing, AFP reports. The auction house says intense bidding in the final minutes drove the price well above the initial $1.75 million estimate. Museums said even the initial estimate was far beyond the budgets. Drouot says there is still a chance the buyer could loan out "Big John" for public viewings. Our original story from last month follows:

The largest Triceratops specimen known to exist could be yours—if you have a lot of space and a lot of money. The 24-foot-long fossil—more than 60% complete, with a skull that is more than 75% complete—is expected to fetch between $1.4 million and $1.8 million at the Hôtel Drouot auction house in Paris on Oct. 21, per AFP. But it could fetch much more. Demand for such fossils is high and causing prices to soar, to the chagrin of museums and researchers, per the Guardian. Paleontologists warned one of the world's most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossils could be "lost to science" ahead of its auction sale last October. It sold for a record $31.8 million, well above the $6 million-$8 million estimate, per CNN.

Later that month, a rare fossil of an allosaurus, a predecessor of the T. rex, sold at auction for three million euros, or more than twice the estimate, per Radio France Internationale. That sale was coordinated by auction house Binoche et Giquello, which is also overseeing the sale of the triceratops fossil—Big John, as it's named. Auctioneer Alexandre Giquello says there are about a dozen people interested in purchasing the fossil. He describes some as "quite young" and part of "the Jurassic Park generation."

More than 200 bones of the dinosaur, which lived some 66 million to 68 million years ago, were discovered in South Dakota's Hell Creek formation in 2014, excavated in 2015, and carefully pieced back together in Italy. Iacopo Briano, the paleontologist who oversaw the work, says it's up to 10% bigger than any other known triceratops specimen. A laceration in the massive collar suggests an altercation with a smaller triceratops, probably during courtship or defense of territory. (Read more dinosaurs stories.)

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