What is the most money anyone has ever paid for a fossil?
A) $5.6 million
B) $8.3 million
C) $20 million
D) $32 million
Are you thinking about it?
Did you select your answer?
Alright, answer time!
The answer is “D,” $32 million. In 2020, a T. rex skeleton named “Stan” sold at auction for nearly $32 million to an anonymous buyer, and then it disappeared for many years. That amount is by far the highest price anyone has ever paid for a fossil. ‘Stan’ is named after the amateur paleontologist who discovered a portion of its pelvis exposed in the face of a cliff in South Dakota. The skeleton of ‘Stan’ the T. rex recently turned up on display in a new museum in Abu Dhabi.
Most academic and museum-based paleontologists are uncomfortable with commercial sales of fossils, especially when huge sums of money are involved. Such sales encourage people to dig up fossils for their monetary value, rather than for their scientific value. When paleontologists from the Las Vegas Natural History Museum excavate bones, we are extremely careful to document exactly how the bones are arranged in the ground. And we look for additional tiny fossil material such as rodent teeth and pollen grains, to help us reconstruct the environment in which the animal lived. Commercial paleontologists, in contrast, don’t care about rodent teeth and pollen grains. They are interested in excavating the bones that have the most monetary value, as quickly as possible. Also, when fossils are sold to private collectors, they often are not available for scientific study.
On the positive side, ‘Stan’ the dinosaur, now on display in Abu Dhabi, will stimulate the imaginations of many museum visitors, especially those of children. And that’s a good thing. The photo shows the animatronic T. rex on display in the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Come visit us, and have your imagination stimulated.
Thank you to our very own Dr. Rowland for this weeks Fossil Friday and photo.
Did the answer surprise you? Let us know!