T. Rex Pulled From Auction After Skeleton Raised Questions

Shen was on display in Singapore in October ahead of the November auction.

Shen was on display in Singapore in October ahead of the November auction.
Image: Roslan Rahman/AFP (Getty Images)

Auction house Christie’s has pulled a Tyrannosaurus rex specimen from an upcoming roster after a paleontologist expressed concerns that some parts of the dinosaur might belong to another T. rex specimen.

The estimated 3,000 pounds (1,400 kilograms) T. rex specimen, nicknamed “Shen,” was set to be auctioned off by Christie’s in Hong Kong on November 30, until paleontologist Pete Larson cast doubt that all of the skeleton’s bones belonged to Shen. According to Christie’s, Shen was set to be the first T. rex skeleton auctioned in Asia and the New York Times reported that Shen was estimated to go for somewhere in the ballpark of $15 million to $25 million.

“After consultation with the consignor of the Tyrannosaurus rex scheduled for sale on November 30 in Hong Kong, Christie’s has decided to withdraw the lot,” said Christie’s spokesperson Edward Lewine in a statement emailed to Gizmodo. “The consignor has now decided to loan the specimen to a museum for public display.”

Lewine told the New York Times that the specimen would “benefit from further study.”

Christie’s removing Shen from auction comes after Larson—who is also the president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research—questioned the authenticity of the dinosaur. According to the Times, the Black Hills Institute once held ownership of another T. rex skeleton named Stan, and Larson noticed that Shen’s skull bore an uncanny resemblance to Stan. Stan was originally excavated by Larson and his colleagues beginning in 1992, with analysis occurring over the following three decades.

Larson specifically cited a series of holes in Shen’s lower left jaw that are unique to Stan, which also appeared in Shen’s skull. Larson believes that Shen’s owner had purchased casts of some of Stan’s bones—which the Black Hills Institute keeps and sells copies of—to potentially supplement missing bones from Shen’s skeleton, including the skull. Christie’s currently has a note at the bottom of their original press release that states:

Replica bones that were added to original bones (referred to as STAN™ elements) were created by, and purchased from, Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Inc. (BHI). STAN™ elements © BHI. 1992-2020. Duplication of these STAN™ elements may require clearance; contact BHI for details.

Earlier versions of this webpage do not include this disclaimer, which was added somewhere between October 19 and November 20 according to the Wayback Machine.

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