The first-ever sale of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in Europe could end up with the fossils in a private collection, making it harder for researchers to study them, scientists fear.
The 67-million-year-old skeleton, nicknamed Trinity, will go up for sale next month at Koller auction house in Zurich, Switzerland.
At 3.9 meters (12.8 ft) tall, Trinity has been estimated at six to eight million Swiss francs (£4.5 to £7.2 million).
Some experts believe the price could put Trinity out of reach for most museums. They fear it will be sold to a very wealthy buyer and join a growing list of scientifically valuable fossils.
“The Trinity auction is just the tip of a very ugly and vast iceberg in which everyone with an interest in the natural world, from school children to scientists, loses,” said Dr. Thomas Carr of Carthage College in Wisconsin, who tracks T-Rex fossils The times.
Described by the auction house as “one of the most spectacular T-Rex skeletons in existence,” Trinity is made from the bones of three dinosaurs — one of the largest predators to ever walk the earth.
The fossils were excavated between 2008 and 2013 in the Hell Creek and Lance Creek formations in Montana and Wyoming in the United States, Koller said.
The sites are known for the discoveries of two other significant T-Rex skeletons that have been auctioned off.
Sue went under the hammer in 1997 for $8.4m (£6.9m) and Stan, who fetched a world record price of $31.8m (£26.1m) at Christie’s in 2020.
Koller said it could not name the current owner, only saying it came from a private collection.
Professor Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh said Trinity is “a Frankenstein-Rex” with mixed and matched parts from different fossils.
“Nonetheless, these fossils are rare and scientifically important, and I think they rightly belong in a museum where they can be kept safe, studied by scientists, and inspired by children and members of the public of all ages,” he said.
JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and other American tycoons have been fascinated by dinosaurs since the 19th century when they funded fossil hunts.
More recently, celebrities have feuded over her. Nicolas Cage outbid Leonardo DiCaprio at a Beverly Hills auction in 2007 for a skull of Tyrannosaurus bataar – a relative of T-Rex.