Visitors take pictures of the T-rex skeleton named ‘Shen’ in Singapore – Copyright AFP/Roslan RAHMAN File
Christie’s has canceled the auction of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, the auction house told AFP on Monday, days before it was set to go up for auction in Hong Kong.
The cancellation came after a US fossil company raised questions about parts of the skeleton called “Shen,” The New York Times reported Sunday.
Christie’s said in a statement to AFP that Shen, a 1,400-kilogram (3,100-pound) skeleton, has been withdrawn from its fall auction week that begins Friday in Hong Kong.
“The consignor has now decided to loan the specimen to a museum for public display,” he said.
Excavated in the US state of Montana, Shen measures 15 feet (4.6 meters) high and 12 meters long, and is believed to be an adult male that lived around 67 million years ago.
Its auction would have followed the sale of another T-rex skeleton named “Stan” by Christie’s for $31.8 million in 2020.
Complete dinosaur skeletons are very rare to find, according to Chicago’s The Field Museum, one of the world’s largest natural history museums.
Most of the frames on display use bone casts to complete the skeleton. The Field Museum estimates the number of bones in a T-rex at 380.
Christie’s original materials said that about 80 of Shen’s bones were original.
The controversy sparked when Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Geological Research Institute in the United States, told The New York Times that parts of Shen resembled Stan.
The Black Hills Institute owns the intellectual property rights to Stan, even after its sale in 2020, and sells replicas of that skeleton.
Larson told the newspaper that it appeared to her that Shen’s owner, not identified by Christie’s, used bones from a replica of Stan to complete the skeleton.
His spokesman, Edward Lewine, told the paper that Christie’s believes Shen “would benefit from further study.”
Sales of such skeletons have fetched tens of millions of dollars in recent years, but experts have described the trade as harmful to science, as auctions could put them in private hands and out of reach of researchers.