On 4 June, geological hammers will give way to an auctioneer’s gavel as the fossilized skeleton of a gigantic predatory dinosaur goes up for sale in the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the dismay of one of the world’s largest international paleontological societies.
The 8.7-meter-long specimen is estimated to be about 70% complete and between 151 million years and 156 million years old. It’s said to have been unearthed legally in 2013 in Wyoming, although the paleontologists who unearthed it remain anonymous. According to the auction house Aguttes’s promotional catalog, the specimen may belong to a previously unknown species, probably a close relative of the iconic Jurassic predator Allosaurus fragilis. Eric Mickeler, a Barcelona, Spain–based member of The European Chamber of Expert-Advisors in Fine Art who is overseeing the auction for Arguttes, has told some media that the buyer might have a say in choosing a scientific name for the potentially new species. He estimates the specimen’s value as €1.2 million to €1.8 million.
But assessing the specimen’s scientific status and naming it if it does represent a new species requires scientific access and analysis—which the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) in Bethesda, Maryland, says may not happen if the highest bidder is a private party. Earlier this month, SVP officials wrote to Aguttes urging the cancellation of the sale. The letter points out that professional ethics dictate that a specimen can be the basis for a new name only if it’s housed in a recognized museum or other repository.