Science

World's biggest Triceratops skeleton goes up for auction

World's biggest Triceratops sk...
Big John is the largest Triceratops specimen ever discovered
Big John is the largest Triceratops specimen ever discovered
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Big John is the largest Triceratops specimen ever discovered
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Big John is the largest Triceratops specimen ever discovered
The Triceratops Big John being prepared at the Zoic workshop in Trieste, Italy
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The Triceratops Big John being prepared at the Zoic workshop in Trieste, Italy

Your chance to own one of the most iconic dinosaurs is about to come up – provided you have a spare few million and an empty ballroom on hand. The largest known specimen of Triceratops, nicknamed “Big John,” will go up for auction in October.

Triceratops and their relatives were basically walking tanks, with stocky bodies armed with a three-horned head and protected by a gigantic bony collar. In fact their skulls are the largest of any known land animal ever, and Big John’s is the biggest of his kind – it’s 2.62 m (8.6 ft) long and 2 m (6.6 ft) wide. His formidable horns alone are each 1.1 m (3.6 ft) long, and 30 cm (11.8 in) wide at the base, allowing them to withstand 16 tons of pressure.

Tussling with him is obviously a bad idea, but that apparently didn’t stop somebody having a crack at it. Big John sports a laceration on his collar like a badge of honor – and we’d sure hate to see the other guy.

The bones were discovered in May 2014 in the Hell Creek Formation, one of the richest fossil beds in the United States. He died around 66 million years ago in a floodplain, meaning his remains were quickly buried in mud, preserving him.

In October 2020 the skeleton, still encased in rock, was shipped to the Zoic workshop in Trieste, Italy, for restoration. After thousands of hours of extracting, cleaning, and cataloging, the fossil is finally ready for his close-up. It turns out the specimen is more than 60 percent complete, with the skull being 75 percent complete.

The Triceratops Big John being prepared at the Zoic workshop in Trieste, Italy
The Triceratops Big John being prepared at the Zoic workshop in Trieste, Italy

Soon Big John will make the trek to the Drouot auction house in Paris, where he’s set to go under the hammer on October 21. The skeleton will be the centerpiece of the fifth part of the Naturalia auction, which is being organized by Binoche and Giquello house.

It’s expected to sell for between €1.2 million and €1.5 million (US$1.4 million and $1.77 million), although the final price might end up being much higher. Last October, Stan the Tyrannosaurus rex sold for over $30 million, the highest ever paid for a dinosaur fossil. He was expected to fetch “only” $6 million to $8 million.

Either way, it’s always a little sad to see such magnificent specimens end up in private collections, where they can’t be admired by the public or studied by the scientific community. With any luck, Big John will be purchased by a museum somewhere, or donated to one by the buyer. If you're in the Paris area, the Triceratops will be on public display in the Drouot building between October 18 and 21.

Source: Drouot

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