Dinosaur Hunter to Make Millions for Finding ‘Virtually Complete’ Stegosaurus

Prior to the auction, “Apex” will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s galleries in New York. Matthew Sherman / Sotheby’s

A Colorado dinosaur hunter is set to rake in millions of dollars after finding an almost complete 150-million-year-old stegosaurus skeleton.

“Apex,” the largest, most complete Stegosaurus fossil ever recovered, is up for sale. On July 17, it will be auctioned at Sotheby’s annual Geek Week series, where it could fetch up to $6 million.

Named for its prominent size—11 feet tall and 20 feet long—the dinosaur is believed to have lived to an advanced age and has no signs of combat or predation-related injuries, per the Sotheby’s auction listing.

“If you combine size, completeness and bone preservation, it is the best Stegosaurus I’ve seen,” Rod Scheetz, a curator at the Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology, tells the New York Times.

Stegosaurus lived in the late Jurassic period

Stegosaurus was a slow-moving, herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Jurassic period, between 145 million and 152 million years ago. Fossils belonging to the species have been found in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The dinosaur had defensive spikes on its tail and distinct bony plates along its back, which may have been used for species recognition or regulating body temperature. Stegosaurus could weigh almost 14,000 pounds and usually grew to a height of 9 to 13 feet and a length of 21 to 30 feet.

“Apex” is more than 30 percent larger than “Sophie,” the previously most intact Stegosaurus specimen, which is now in the collections of the National History Museum in London.

“Through the careful process of excavation, preparation and installation, ‘Apex’ sets a new standard for all future discoveries of this magnitude and further reinforces the enduring appeal of Stegosaurus and its vaunted status in popular culture,” Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture, says in the listing.

Scientists critical of the auction

“It is a great shame when a fossil like this, which could educate and rouse the curiosity of so many people, just disappears into the mansion of an oligarch,” University of Edinburgh professor of paleontology and evolution Steve Brusatte told CNN.

If a paleontologist finds a dinosaur on government-owned land, it belongs to the public first, under US law. If it’s found on private land, however, all bets are off, depending on the jurisdiction.

In the case of the stegosaurus, nicknamed “Apex,” dinosaur hunter Jason Cooper found the skeleton on his private property in Colorado on his 45th birthday in May 2022, according to the BBC.

In 2020, rival auction house Christie’s put the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton to bid, garnering an eye-watering and record-setting $31.8 million.

Like Apex, paleontologists in academia grumbled about losing out on the opportunity to see the T-rex skeleton in a research setting and were dismayed it would instead go into a private collection.

The Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi has claimed the skeleton and will display it to the public as part of a new museum slated to open in 2025.

Related: What Killed the Dinosaurs? The Debate Between Humans and AI

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