Big John, largest known triceratops skeleton, sold at auction

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Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The bones of Big John were discovered in modern-day South Dakota in 2014

The fossilised remains of Big John, the largest triceratops dinosaur ever found, have been sold at an auction in the French capital.

The skeleton fetched a European record price of €6.65m ($7.74m; £5.6m).

Some 66 million years ago, Big John roamed modern-day South Dakota in the US, where the dinosaur's bones were unearthed in 2014.

With its huge collared skull and three horns, the plant-eating triceratops was a giant of the Cretaceous period.

A private, anonymous collector from the US bought Big John's skeleton, which was put on public display at the Drouot auction house in Paris last week.

The collector was "absolutely thrilled with the idea of being able to bring a piece like this to his personal use", Djuan Rivers, a representative for the buyer, said.

The palaeontologists who discovered Big John managed to dig up 60% of the dinosaur's skeleton.

Its 200 pieces - including the 2m-wide skull of the dinosaur - were painstakingly assembled by specialists in Trieste, Italy. Those bones form a skeleton 8m long by 3m high.

There are signs of damage on the skull where researchers believe the dinosaur may have been struck by another in a battle.

Big John died on an ancient floodplain and was buried in mud, which preserved the dinosaur's bones for millions of years.

"It's a masterpiece," Iacopo Briano, a palaeontologist involved in Big John's reconstruction, told France Inter last month. "There are quite a few triceratops skulls around in the world, but very few of them almost complete."

Auction experts say demand for rare dinosaur fossils has inflated prices at the expense of museums, which often cannot afford to buy them.

Auctioneer Alexandre Giquello said the selling price of Big John was another sign of how wealthy private collectors were "creating a new market" for dinosaur fossils.

Last year, a near-complete specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex was sold at auction for a world-record price of $31.8m.

But dinosaur sales have proved unpredictable in the past. In 2008, the skeleton of a triceratops failed to find a buyer when a final bid of $780,000 fell short of the reserve price.

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