Christie’s has canceled an auction of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton days before it was due to go on sale in Hong Kong after the US fossil company raised doubts about parts of the skeleton dubbed “Shen”.
Christie’s said in a statement that Shen – a 1,400 kg (3,100 lb) skeleton – has been withdrawn from the autumn auction week that starts Friday in Hong Kong.
“The sender has now decided to lend the specimen to the museum for public display,” it said.
Excavated from Montana, Shen is 4.6 meters (15 feet) tall and 12 meters long, and is believed to be an adult male who lived about 67 million years ago. Its auction would follow Christie’s selling another T rex skeleton called “Stan” for $31.8m (£27m) in 2020.
It is very rare to find complete dinosaur skeletons, according to the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Most of the frames on display use bone casts to complete the skeleton. The Field Museum estimates the number of T rex bones to be 380.
Christie’s original materials say that about 80 of Shen’s bones are genuine.
The controversy was sparked when Peter Larson, president of the US Black Hills Geological Survey, told the New York Times that parts of Shen looked similar to Stan.
The Black Hills Institute holds the intellectual property rights to Stan, even after its sale in 2020, and sells replicas of that skeleton.
Larson told the newspaper that he believed Shen’s owner — who Christie’s did not identify — used bones from the Stan replica to complete the skeleton. His spokesman, Edward Lewine, told the newspaper that Christie’s believed Shen “would have received additional research.”
The sale of such skeletons has fetched tens of millions of dollars in recent years, but experts have described the trade as harmful to science because auctions could put them in private hands and beyond the reach of researchers.