An as-yet unclassified dinosaur skeleton has been auctioned off to a private bidder, alarming paleontologists around the world. An anonymous buyer purchased the skeleton for $2.3 million. According to the Agence France-Presse, the buyer is an “unnamed French art collector,” and the seller is a British businessman.
There are many questions surrounding the dinosaur’s discovery. The skeleton was found in Wyoming in 2013. It measures 28.5 feet long and is approximately 70 percent complete. The excavation of the skeleton was reportedly legal, but those who found it have remained anonymous.
While the species of the dinosaur remains unknown, there is speculation that the dinosaur is a close relative of the allosaurus, a Jurassic-era biped that was among the earliest dinosaurs discovered. The French auction house Aguttes wrote in a catalogue promoting the sale that the specimen is the “sole representative of what is likely a new species of Allosaurid, or even a new genus altogether.” The skeleton dates to between 151 million and 156 million years ago.
The auction of the skeleton took place on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. According to Reuters, some proceeds from the auction will be donated to two charities that work with endangered species.
Some paleontologists are concerned that the private sale will limit scientists’ ability to study the specimen. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), which represents more than 2,000 students and professionals, wrote in in an open letter to Aguttes last month that “Scientifically important vertebrate fossils are part of our collective natural heritage and deserve to be held in public trust.” The letter urged the auction house to cancel the sale.
The SVP says in its letter, “Fossil specimens that are sold into private hands are lost to science. Even if made accessible to scientists, information contained within privately owned specimens cannot be included in the scientific literature because the availability of the fossil material to other scientists cannot be guaranteed, and therefore verification of scientific claims (the essence of scientific progress) cannot be performed.”