It’s not every day that a complete dinosaur skeleton is discovered, let alone put up for auction.
The ultra-rare Gorgosaurus in question will go under the gavel at Sotheby’s later this month, according to a press release. The auction house expects the bones could fetch up to $8 million, which would make the skeleton one of the most valuable in the world.
The Gorgosaurus walked the earth roughly 77 million years ago, about 10 million years before its more famous relative, the Tyrannosaurus rex. Both dinosaurs had large heads, curved serrated teeth and small front limbs with two fingers. The Gorgosaurus was smaller than its headline-grabbing cousin, but was both faster and fiercer, according to Sotheby’s. It also had a stronger bite force (42,000 newtons compared to 35,000 for the T. rex). Considered the singular predator of the Late Cretaceous period, it hunted prey in groups of four in what is now western North America.
The particular skeleton was discovered in 2018 in the Judith River Formation in eastern Montana, a historically important geological area that paleontologists have been excavating for more than a century. The 10-foot rarity is said to be in “remarkably pristine” condition due to the slowly deposited sediments of the river ecosystem in the area where it was excavated. (Essentially, thick sands provided the perfect conditions to preserve the specimen.) It is one of only a handful of Gorgosaurus skeletons to be found in the US. The others are all believed to be part of institutional collections, making it the only specimen of its kind available for private ownership.
The Gorgosaurus is the headline lot in Sotheby’s Natural History sale, which will be held in New York on July 28. The auction house expects the set of bones to sell for between $5 million and $8 million. If it goes for somewhere near the high end of that range, it would be one of the most expensive skeletons ever sold at auction. It would have to greatly overperform estimates to become the most valuable, though. That title currently belongs to “Stan,” a near-complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that sold for $31.8 million in 2020.