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'Dueling Dinosaurs' fossil up for auction to chagrin of scientists

by Take Two®

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This July 26, 2013 photo provided by Bonhams shows fossilized dinosaur skeleton in a plaster jacket at a location in central Montana. Described by Bonhams auction house as a Nanotyrannus, thought to be a close relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, it is one of two skeletons found on a Montana ranch in 2006 which are coming up for sale in New York City. Bonhams says the dinosaurs — a plant eater and a meat-eater — would have stood about eight feet high and appeard to be locked together in mortal combat where they were found. Uncredited/AP

About six years ago,  an amateur fossil collector in the dusty badlands of Montana made the find of a lifetime. Two dinosaur skeletons, almost completely intact, and intertwined in what looks to be a battle to the death.

The specimens, found by Clayton Phipps, have come to be known as the "Dueling Dinosaurs." Seems like something that belongs in a museum, but this November they’ll be put up for auction in New York. 

Bids are expected to be as high as $9 million, but museums have refused them and the scientific community has shunned the artifact.

"It's all about the money," says Montana Hodges, a writer who is familiar with the issue. "Ultimately this story, this problem with the paleontological community is all about the money. So, dinosaur museums don't have the money to buy them, and scientists can't study these specimens until they're in a repository, most likely a museum repository — universities also have them."

Additionally, "dinosaur country" is run by hardworking ranchers who work on really dry land and treat their fossil finds like they would oil or gold.

"You have this problem where there's this high monetary value on something that's scientifically important, and it also happens to be material that's found in this very harsh place to live," said Hodges. 

On top of that, Phipps is not a researcher. Instead, he's in the search for dinosaur bones as a side business for some extra cash, which makes it more difficult for museums and research universities to show interest in purchasing big dinosaur specimens. Some scientists have refused to study or even look at them.

"What they don't want to do is accidentally give credit to the fossils," says Hodges, "which would heighten their value."

But that might change once they get to a repository, and Hodges says that could happen if a philanthropist or a private funder buys "Dueling Dinosaurs" and donates it to a museum.

Until then, it's unknown where they'll go.

"I'd say there's an equal chance that they will end up with science or that they will end up as somebody's next piece of art in their collection," Hodges says. "This will be the most exciting auction for dinosaurs, possibly ever, and I don't know where they will go."

Web article by Nuran Alteir

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