Violent Tableaux of Two Fossilized 'Deuling Dinosaurs' Engaged in Death Struggle Could Fetch $8M at Auction

By Gabrielle Jonas on November 18, 2013 6:21 PM EST

Fossil of Dinosaurs Battling to the Death Could Fetch Millions in Auction
An artist's model of the battling dinosaurs up for auction Tuesday, based on geographical placement of the fossils (Photo: .Black Hills Institute of Geol)

A fossil of two "deuling dinosaurs" engaged in a battle unto death is expected to fetch between $7 million and $9 million by bidding museums at auction in New York City Tuesday.

The fossil, which hails from from the Cretaceous Age 145 to 66 million years ago, shows a close relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex sinking its teeth into another dinosaur's skull. It also reveals the victim defending itself by kicking in his attacker's skull and chest. The well-matched dinosaurs, the Nanotyrannus lancensis, related to the T-Rex, and a new species of Chasmosaurine Ceratopsian, similar to a Triceratops, measured between 25 and 35 feet long and stood about eight feet high. The intact state of their fully articulated skeletons indicates they were buried together soon after their combat, according to the the auction house, Bonhams. 

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Calling the offering the "highlight of my career" and "one of the most significant dinosaur discoveries ever in North America," Thomas E. Lindgren, co-consulting director of the Natural History Department at Bonhams, told International Science Times that despite the high price of the auction house, he thinks the fossil is worth far more than the asking price — both monetarily and scientifically. The fossil may help settle a debate among paleontologists as to whether Nanotyrannus are their own genus, or whether they are, in fact, juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rexes. This particular Nanotyrannus is only the second example ever found, and by far the most complete.

Noting that no private individuals have expressed an interest in bidding for the fossil, Mr. Lindgren added, "An institution that gets this will have to spend millions on its transport and care before it can even display the animals. We have interest from museums in negotiating after the auction, in the hopes of finding a benefactor who might help them with the purchase for their institutions."

According to Lindgren, the fossil is unprecendented in its inclusion of soft skin tissue,  "For the first time, we have a a Tyrannosaurus that has almost all its skin," he said. "Much more important than it being something for display, is the science. It's invaluable. The fossil ia offering amazing avenues for research. And it will take a lot of time to do the research before the animals even can be displayed. You don't rush science."

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