If you've got a heap of extra cash waiting to be spent on something that will make your friends jealous, you might consider heading to Dallas on Sunday.
Heritage Auctions is offering four dinosaurs, including a "fighting pair" made up of an allosaurus and a stegosaurus, as well as 9-foot-tall shark jaws and more than 200 other curiosities of natural history. And while they may make excellent conversation pieces in an oversized living room, museums would hope that you'd donate them so that more people can see them and scientists can study them further.
The allosaurus and stegosaurus were found in 2007 in the Dana Quarry of Wyoming in a rare state: The stegosaurus's leg was in the allosaurus's mouth, meaning they could have been in combat at the moment of their death. The estimated price for the pair is $2.8 million, and they are thought to be about 155 million years old. Heritage says this is the first time that these dinosaurs have been found together. The bones have not been officially studied, but their scientific integrity has been preserved, said Yinan Wang, the auction house's natural history coordinator.
And here's another source of wonder: two pieces of the famous Murchison meteorite, which fell near Murchison, Australia, in 1969. The rock contains amino acids, the building blocks of life, giving credence to the theory that the "stuff of life" on Earth came from elsewhere. Researchers are still trying to make sense of the organic compounds in its fragments.
The triceratops skeleton is particularly unusual because it has most of its teeth; often, skulls are found without any, said Tony Fiorillo, chief paleontologist at the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. Teeth can provide insights into what it ate, and therefore might reveal other elements of its lifestyle. The triceratops and the giant shark jaws have been on display at the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science since before the auction.
Generally, most pieces in natural history auctions go to private collectors, said David Herskowitz, director of Heritage. Some people put fossils on display at their homes, others are stored away in crates. One client has an entire building on his property used as a "private museum."
But there have been cases where corporations have worked with public museums to acquire specimens in exchange for recognition of the corporation in the museum's display, which works out well for both parties, Fiorillo said.
"Museums are generally short on funding for the purchase of specimens like this. That’s unfortunately one of the realities," Fiorillo said.
"One of the things that I would hope is that many of these do end up in museum collections, because then they’d do the greatest amount of good," he added.
The auction takes place at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Tower Building in Dallas' Fair Park.