Image credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s
What is Gorgosaurus?
Gorgosaurus, Greek for “fierce lizard,” was smaller than T. rex but possessed tiny limbs and keen, serrated teeth like its tyrannosaur kin. According to Sotheby’s, the species had hawk-like eyesight, a keen sense of smell, and an adult weight of up to 2 tonnes (1.8 metric tonnes).
According to the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, the apex predator Gorgosaurus stalked its prey in parts of what is now the western United States and Canada between 80 million and 73 million years ago, millions of years before its more famous relative, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, existed.
According to Sotheby’s auction house, the first specimen of the meat-eating dinosaur Gorgosaurus to be sold will be put up for bid on July 28 in New York City. The beast’s skeleton, which is about the size of three king-size mattresses set up a head to foot and is close to 10 feet (3 metres) tall and 22 feet (6.7 m) long, is anticipated to fetch at least $5 million and maybe as much as $8 million.
Why is the Gorgosaurus being auctioned?
Numerous dinosaur fossils have been sold at auction in the past, notably, Stan the T. rex, which was sold for $31.8 million in October 2020, making it the most expensive dinosaur fossil ever sold. The Gorgosaurus that will soon be put up for sale was discovered in 2018 on private property in the Judith River Formation in Havre, Montana, a region well known for its dinosaur-era fossils.
What do scientists have to say about the auction?
Even though this is the first time a Gorgosaurus is being auctioned off, scientists aren’t too thrilled about it.
“Any time that a vertebrate fossil is being sold, potentially privately, it’s disturbing,” says Gregory Erickson, a paleobiologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee who is not involved with the auction. “It steals away the potential for scientific advancement. But then again, in this case, as near as I can tell, the specimen has been legally collected, so it’s fair game. That’s where our laws are.”
Kat Schroeder, a paleomacroecologist at the University of New Mexico who is not involved with the auction, said it was “disappointing to see a good specimen of a rare dinosaur potentially on its way to a private collector.”
Scientists are aware of at least 12 entire or almost complete heads and many partial skeletons of Gorgosaurus, making each specimen exceptionally important. To put that number in perspective, 53 T. rex specimens are commercially or privately owned, leaving 58 T. rex specimens in public trusts. This means that scientists do not have access to half of the known T. rex fossils, according to Thomas Carr, a vertebrate palaeontologist and associate professor of biology at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who is not associated with the Gorgosaurus sale.
Carr noted that even 58 people is a tiny quantity for scientific research, making the 12 Gorgosaurus specimens known to date an extremely small group. Private dinosaur fossil owners are not required to make their specimens available to researchers, and many palaeontologists prefer not to examine fossils that aren’t accessible to the general public because access to the specimen may be cancelled at any time.