‘Big John’, Largest-Ever Triceratops, Up For Auction

'Big John', Largest-Ever Triceratops, Up For Auction
This file photo, taken on August 31, 2021, shows a triceratops exposed ahead of its auction sale at the Drouot auction house in October.  (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

 

“Big John”, 66 million years old and the largest triceratops skeleton ever unearthed at eight metres long, goes up for auction in Paris on Thursday.

He is expected to fetch up to 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) at the Drouot auction house.

Big John’s skeleton is 60 percent complete, and was unearthed in South Dakota, United States in 2014 and put together by specialists in Italy.

He lived during the Upper Cretaceous period, the final era of dinosaurs, and died in a floodplain, buried in mud that kept him very well preserved.

A horn injury near his cranium suggests he got into at least one nasty fight.

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It is the latest dinosaur to be sold by the Drouot auction house which, according to its website, handled an allosaurus and a diplodocus each worth 1.4 million euros in 2018.

The price tag means that museums are largely excluded from the purchase.

“We can’t compete,” said Francis Duranthon, director of the Toulouse Museum of Natural History.

He said 1.5 million euros represented 20 to 25 years of his acquisitions budget.

But auctioneer Alexandre Giquello said there was a good chance it would still be seen by the public.

He told AFP that half of those expressing an interest in Big John had stated their desire to show it in a museum, and it was not clear how the others felt.

Scientists had also been able to analyse the bones before the auction.

The triceratops is among the most distinctive of dinosaurs due to the three horns on its head — one at the nose and two on the forehead — that give the dinosaur its Latin name.

Dinosaur sales can be unpredictable, however: in 2020, several specimens offered in Paris did not find takers after minimum prices were not reached.

AFP

Scientists Unearth 220 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Fossils

Argentina Foreign Minister Malcorra Resigns

 

A site containing the 220-million-year-old fossilised remains of nearly a dozen dinosaurs has been discovered in western Argentina, researchers said Wednesday.

“There are almost ten different individuals, it’s a mass of bones, there’s practically no sediment,” said Argentinian palaeontologist Ricardo Martinez.

“It’s very impressive.”

According to Martinez, of the University of San Juan, the fossils are approximately 220 million years old, belonging to “an era of which we know little”.

“This discovery is doubly important because there are at least seven or eight individuals of dicynodonts, the ancestors of mammals, the size of an ox,” he said.

He said there were also remains of archosaurs, reptiles that could be the ancestors of great crocodiles “that we do not know about yet”.

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The find was discovered in September last year in San Juan province, about 1,100 kilometres (680 miles) west of Buenos Aires.

The site is between one and two metres (yards) in diameter and about the same depth, leading scientists to speculate it was a former drinking hole at a time of great drought, and the creatures died of weakness at the spot.

Argentina has been a rich source of fossils from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras over the years — most, of creatures not found in the northern hemisphere.

AFP

Scientists Discover Tiny ‘Dracula’ With A Taste For Dinosaur Blood

This handout picture shows hard tick graping a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. Photo; Penalver et al / NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP / AFP

Dinosaurs, the most fearsome creatures ever to walk the Earth, were bugged already 100 million years ago by a paltry pest that still plagues animals today: the bloodsucking tick, scientists have discovered.

Preserved for eternity in amber, fossilised tree resin, researchers have found a hard tick — uncannily similar to those we know — clinging to a 99-million-year-old dinosaur feather, a team wrote in the journal Nature Communications this week.

“The discovery is remarkable because fossils of parasitic, blood-feeding creatures directly associated with remains of their host are exceedingly scarce, and the new specimen is the oldest known to date,” they said in a statement.

The well-preserved, juvenile insect was less than a millimetre in size, had eight legs, but no eyes.

One of its legs was entangled in the barb of a “pennaceous” feather — those with a central quill as sported by some dinosaurs and their modern offspring: birds.

The team could not identify which type of dinosaur the feather had belonged to, but dated it to the Cretaceous period some 145 million to 66 million years ago.

“So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on, the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird, as these appeared much later in… evolution,” said study co-author Ricardo Perez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The fossilised tick provides the first evidence of an early parasitic relationship between ticks and dinos, the team said.

And they found further evidence, though less direct, with the discovery of two specimens of a different tick — which they named after the fictitious bloodsucker Count Dracula — also locked up in amber.

These ticks had remains of skin beetle larvae stuck to them. Skin beetles feed in nests, consuming feathers, skin, and hair.

– Is it a bird? –

“And as no mammal hairs have yet been found in Cretaceous amber,” the ticks’ host was likely to have been a feathered dinosaur, said the team.

The pair of ticks were named Deinocroton draculi from the Greek for “terrible” (deinos) and “tick” (kroton), followed by a nod to Bram Stoker’s famous vampire.

“Together, these findings provide direct and indirect evidence that ticks have been parasitising and sucking blood from dinosaurs within the evolutionary lineage leading to modern birds for almost 100 million years,” the researchers said.

“While the birds were the only lineage of theropod dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, the ticks did not just cling on for survival, they continued to thrive.”

Ticks feed off the blood of animals, sometimes transmitting ailments such as Lyme disease, typhus, or tick fever.

The team said whatever remained of the blood the ticks had sucked, would not have preserved any dinosaur DNA.

AFP