T-rex in Singapore as experts denounce ‘harmful’ auctions

Dinosaur fans caught a glimpse of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton as it was displayed in Singapore on Friday ahead of an auction next month, as experts branded the big-money bone trade ‘harmful to Science”.

The 1,400-kilo frame, made up of about 80 bones, will be the first T-rex skeleton to be auctioned in Asia, according to Christie’s, which did not give an estimate for the lot.

Dubbed Shen, meaning divine, it will be on display for three days before being shipped to Hong Kong for sale in November.

“None of the 20 T-Rexes that exist in the world belong to an Asian institution or an Asian collector,” said Francis Belin, president of Christie’s Asia Pacific.

“We really wish Shen would find a new home among our Asian collectors here.”

The adult dino, which is 4.6 meters tall and 12 meters long, is believed to be a male. It was excavated on private land in the Hells Creek formation in Montana in the United States in 2020.

“I’ve never seen an actual fossil before…I’m amazed because it’s quite majestic,” said Lauren Lim, 33, who visited the exhibit.

— ‘Bad news for science’ —

Shen – which lived during the Cretaceous period around 67 million years ago – is not the only dinosaur to be auctioned off in recent years.

In July, the first skeleton of a Gorgosaurus went for $6.1 million in New York. Another T-rex, “Stan”, was sold for $31.8 million by Christie’s in 2020.

But the trend of prehistoric auction lots worries some experts.

“It’s sad that dinosaurs are becoming collectible toys for the oligarch class, and I can only hope this fad ends soon,” said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh.

He told AFP the trend was “bad news for science”, and that the remains belonged to museums.

Thomas Carr, an American paleontologist, described such sales as “unquestionably harmful to science” even though the skeletons had been studied before being sold.

“A secure, permanent collection ensures that observations a scientist makes of a fossil can be tested and replicated — and a commercially held fossil has no such assurance,” Carr said.

Belin, of Christie’s, said he hoped a public institution would purchase Shen, and added that the entire skeleton had been fully researched, 3D recorded, and “all elements of the skeleton will be made available to the public for research”.

“We very much hope that the new owner, whether institutional or private, will ensure that it is seen by the public,” Belin said.

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