T. rex auction in Hong Kong cancelled after doubts raised about parts of the skeleton
- The sale of ‘Shen’ would have followed that of another T. rex skeleton, ‘Stan’, in 2020. A fossil company said it appeared ‘Shen’ had replica parts from ‘Stan’
- Christie’s says the seller will loan the skeleton to a museum for public display. The sale was controversial because it would have put ‘Shen’ in private hands
Christie’s has called off the auction of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, the auction house said on November 21, days before it was due to go under the hammer in Hong Kong.
The cancellation came after an American fossil company raised doubts about parts of the skeleton named “Shen”, The New York Times reported a day earlier.
Christie’s said that Shen – a 1,400kg (3,100lb) skeleton – was withdrawn from its autumn auctions week that starts in Hong Kong on November 25.
“The consignor has now decided to loan the specimen to a museum for public display,” it said.
Excavated in the US state of Montana, Shen stands 4.6 metres tall and is 12 metres long, and is thought to be the skeleton of an adult male T. rex that lived about 67 million years ago.
It is very rare for complete dinosaur skeletons to be found, according to The Field Museum in Chicago, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
Most frames on display use casts of bones to complete the skeleton. The Field Museum estimates the number of bones in a T. rex at 380.
Christie’s has said about 80 of Shen’s bones were original.
The controversy was sparked when Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in the United States, told The New York Times that parts of Shen looked similar to Stan.
The Black Hills Institute holds the intellectual property rights to Stan, even after its sale in 2020, and it sells replicas of that skeleton.
Larson told the newspaper that it seemed to him that Shen’s owner – not identified by Christie’s – used bones from a Stan replica to complete the skeleton.
Christie’s spokesman Edward Lewine told the newspaper that the auction house believes Shen “would benefit from further study”.
Sales of such skeletons have raked in tens of millions of dollars in recent years, but experts have described the trade as harmful to science, as the auctions could put them in private hands and out of the reach of researchers.