'Dueling' dinosaur skeletons don't attract expected bids at auction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 8:53pm


Two fossilized dinosaur skeletons, nicknamed the "Montana Dueling Dinosaurs" because they appear forever locked in mortal combat, failed to sell at a New York City auction.

A pre-sale estimate had predicted that the skeletons, offered as a single lot, could fetch between US$7 million and US$9 million - a price out of the reach of most museums. The hopes among organisers were that a wealthy buyer would donate the skeletons to a public institution. But the skeletons did not make the reserve at the Bonhams auction on Tuesday; the highest offer was US$5.5 million.

Auction officials said they remained hopeful they would find a buyer, possibly among institutions that had previously expressed interest.

The discovery began with a dinosaur pelvis protruding through rock at the Montana ranch. Three more months of chiseling and digging revealed a remarkable discovery: two nearly complete, fossilized dinosaur skeletons of a carnivore and herbivore, their tails touching.

A pushed-in skull and teeth of one dinosaur embedded in the other suggested a deadly confrontation between them. Clayton Phipps, a fossil hunter who made the discovery, gave the fossils their name.

The fossils are believed to be a nanotyrannus lancensis, a relative of the T rex, and a newly discovered species of chasmosaurine ceratopsian, a close relative of the triceratops, which lived at the end of the cretaceous age some 65 million years ago.

"I am just the lucky guy that happened to … find this dinosaur," Phipps said.