Promoters had hoped the fossilized dinosaur skeleton duo, reportedly embattled in a frozen combat for centuries would have sold Tuesday, Nov. 18, at a New York City Auction but the bidders didn’t go high enough as expected, so the “Montana Dueling Dinosaurs” have to wait for a buyer. “Those negotiations with interested clients will begin immediately.” said Thomas Lindgren, co-leader of natural history at Bonhams Auction.
He said they were receiving calls prior to the auction from interested clients, who asked to be notified if the Montana Dueling Dinosaurs did not sell. The highest bid at the Bonhams auction was $5.5 million, which was under the projected $9 million.
The Montana Dueling Dinosaurs supposedly fought in a showdown until both died around 67 million years ago. The first, a scary Triceratops-kin creature, was half folded over the second one, a patchy Tyrannosaurus with its skull smashed in and several teeth chipped away.
Paleontologist Jack Homer at Montana State University said lightly that perhaps aliens arranged them that way, which could be just as believable as the idea that they keeled over, frozen in battle, while cemented in their warrior suits.
What Homer is really saying is that how can we be sure what happened if the specimens have not undergone a vigorous scientific peer review? Instead, Homer said, they have been promoted and magnified so they can be sold for a soaring price.
Some fossil experts have worried that these Montana Dueling Dinosaurs will not be available for scientific inquiry when sold in high demand at an auction on Madison Avenue. It is not a well known fact but often high-profile ones acquired legally and brought into the market can be pushed aside by paleontologists if they are auctioned off in wealthy commercial sales.
The pre-auction projections had anticipated that the skeletons, sold in one bundle, could sell for $7 to $9 million. This range is out of the question for museums. Sellers were assuming that a well-to-do private patron would come forward with the money and then generously donate them to a non-profit, public organization. That is what happened in 1990 when a wealthy buyer purchased Sue, a Tyrannosaurus rex found in South Dakota, which was then donated to the Field Museum in Chicago.
Fascination with fossils will always be at the root of discoveries such as this one, which came when a fossil hunter named Clayton Phipps found a dinosaur pelvis on his neighbor’s Montana ranch in 2006. It was located in the Hell Creek Formation protruding through the rock. Further investigation during three months of burrowing and carving brought surprising results. They extracted two somewhat whole fossilized dinosaur skeletons of a carnivore and herbivore, tails practically crossed.
Phipps has helped bring the Montana Dueling Dinosaurs to the public eye, hoping and waiting for a buyer to eventually come forward. Phipps, the one who gave the dinos’ their “dueling” name, considered himself quite lucky to find the Montana Dueling Dinosaurs, and imagined quite the battle between the two huge creatures. The skull and teeth of one was propelled forward, ingrained into the other dinosaur, which suggested a forceful showdown. “I really appreciate the academic paleontologists that understand the importance of what us amateurs bring to the mix. I am hoping that it will be professionally and academically studied.” He said that he will continue to pursue finding out more about them.
Scientists believe that the Monta Nanotyrannus lancensis, a lesser kin of the T. rex, and a recently found species of Chasmosaurine ceratopsian, was a close relative to the Triceratops, which existed at the end of the Cretaceous age around 65 million years ago.
Scientists have disagreed on the proposed value of the Montana dueling Dinosaurs. On one hand, Kirk Johnson, Director from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said they were a superb finding but that investigators needed to examine whether the Ceratopsian was indeed a new species. On the other side of the debate Jack Homer, a paleontologist, called the claims preposterous, saying that all the hype has to do with raising the price to get more money:
“These fossils are not worth anything because they were collected to sell and not specifically for their science,” Homer said.
Still, Johnson insisted that the skeletons would need to be extracted from their enclosing sandstone and inspected beside other skeletons in various museums to determine their “actual completeness.” He emphasized how finding a carnivore and herbivore together is still “very unusual.”
Waiting patiently, with hopes of paper dollars falling from the sky, promoters of the Montana Dueling Dinosaurs seek a buyer that will donate these specimens to a public institution so scientific progress can be made.
By Danelle Cheney
Kansas City Star