Big John, the world’s largest triceratops dinosaur, was auctioned off in Paris. The skeleton sold for €6.65 million ($7.74 million; £5.6 million), which was a European record price.
Big John roamed the United States 66 million years ago, and his bones were discovered in 2014. The plant-eating triceratops was a behemoth of the Cretaceous epoch, with its massive collared skull and three horns. Big John’s skeleton, which was on public exhibit at the Drouot auction house in Paris last week, was purchased by a private, unnamed collector from the United States.
Djuan Rivers, a spokesman for the purchase, said the collector was ‘absolutely thrilled with the idea of being able to bring a piece like this to his personal use.’ Big John’s skeleton was discovered by palaeontologists, who were able to recover 60% of the dinosaur’s skeleton. Its 200 pieces were painstakingly built by specialists in Trieste, Italy, including the dinosaur’s 2m-wide skull. These bones make up an 8-meter-long, 3-meter-high skeleton. Researchers assume the dinosaur was struck by another in a combat because there are evidence of damage on the skull.
Big John died on an ancient floodplain and was buried in muck for millions of years, preserving the dinosaur’s bones. Iacopo Briano, a palaeontologist engaged in Big John’s reconstruction, told France Inter last month, ‘It’s a masterpiece.’ ‘There are quite a few triceratops skulls around in the world, but very few of them almost complete.’ Demand for rare dinosaur fossils has raised prices, according to auction specialists, to the detriment of museums, who cannot afford to buy them. Big John’s sale price, according to auctioneer Alexandre Giquello, is another example of how wealthy private collectors are ‘creating a new market’ for dinosaur fossils.
A near-complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimen was sold for a world-record $31.8 million at an auction last year. However, in the past, dinosaur sales have been unexpected. When a final bid of $780,000 fell short of the reserve price in 2008, the triceratops skeleton went unsold.