The skeletons of two fossilized dinosaurs recently found in the Hell Creek formation in Montana could be entirely new kinds of dinosaurs – but we'll never know, if they're bought by private collectors at an upcoming November auction.
The New York Times reports:
"Going against the hopes of many paleontologists, these two nearly complete skeletons, found by commercial prospectors on a private ranch, are not going directly to a museum for further study. Instead, billed as the 'Montana dueling dinosaurs,' they will be auctioned in November by Bonhams in New York, for a projected price of $7 million to $9 million, which would be one of the highest prices ever paid for dinosaur fossils."
"'This lines their pockets but hurts science,' Thomas Carr, the senior scientific adviser at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum and director of the Carthage Institute of Paleontology in Wisconsin, said of the sellers, who include the husband-and-wife owners of the ranch and the prospectors, one of whom calls himself the Dino Cowboy."
"A museum could still buy the fossils; many were offered them, at an even higher price, in the long, winding road to auction. Or a private buyer could make them available to scientists. It’s the lack of a guarantee that rankles paleontologists."
Up to this point, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has passed on buying the skeletons, which it was offered at a whopping $15 million. The fossil sellers will probably only get $7 or $8 million at auction – so they should let the Smithsonian buy the skeletons for that price instead.
Smithsonian Museum, please keep these skeletons available to scientists and the public!