‘Harmful to science’: T-rex skeleton in Singapore sparks debate about auctions of prehistoric objects

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On Friday, thousands of dinosaur fans gathered to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton named “Shen” (Chinese word for god) in Singapore before it is auctioned in Hong Kong. However, experts have raised concerns regarding such significant objects being in the hands of private collectors making them inaccessible to people or scientists. 

The 2.2 metres long and 4.6 metres high with a 1,400 kg frame Shen is composed of 80 bones and is thought to be male. It will also be reportedly the first T-rex skeleton auctioned in Asia. As per the auction company Christie’s president in Asia-Pacific Francis Belin, “None of the 20 T-Rex that exist in the world is owned by either an Asian institution or an Asian collector.” 

unkindwhile, experts have raised objections over this trend of auctions for significant prehistoric objects and said, “It’s a sad thing that dinosaurs are becoming collectible toys for the oligarch class, and I can only hope this fad ends soon,” said palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh, Steve Brusatte to AFP. 

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Echoing a similar sentiment, Thomas Carr, a palaeontologist from the US asserted that these sales are “harmful to science” even after the skeletons are being studied before they are sold as a secure permenant collection ensures that a scientist has access so that a fossil “can be tested and replicated” while commercially held fossil does not. 

The fossil will be on display for three days before being shipped to Hong Kong for the auction in November. It was found only a few years ago and excavated from private land in Hells Creek Formation in the US state of Montana in 2020. However, the guide price or the identity of the seller has not been revealed.  

Reports suggest that Shen lived at least 67 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. Notably, this is not the only T-rex fossil to be sold as Christie’s also sold “Stan” for $ 31.8 million. Earlier this year, a skeleton of a Gorgosaurus which is said to be the first of its kind was auctioned for $ 6.1 million in New York. 

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Christie’s also hopes that some public institutions buy Shen so that it could be seen by the public, said Beline and added, “We strongly hope that the new owner, whether it’s an institution or private, will ensure that it’s being seen by the public.” Furthermore, the auction company has also reassured that Shen has been fully researched and recorded in 3D as well as “all the elements of the skeleton will be made available for the public to research.”

(With inputs from agencies)  

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