Christie's pulls T-rex skeleton from auction over replica bones

It was expected to sell for up to $25 million in Hong Kong

The T-rex skeleton Shen, pictured on display in Singapore, was due to hit the auction block in Hong Kong. AFP
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Christie’s has said it plans to withdraw a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that was expected to fetch up to $25 million at an auction at the end of this month in Hong Kong.

The decision comes after questions were raised over the number of replica bones included in the skeleton, and how it was marketed, The New York Times reported. One lawyer questioned whether the specimen might include pieces created from a cast of the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi's Stan.

Christie's spokesman Edward Lewine said the auction house thought the specimen would benefit from "further study".

In a statement released 10 days prior to the scheduled sale, Lewine said: “After consultation with the consignor of the Tyrannosaurus rex scheduled for sale on 30 November in Hong Kong, Christie’s has decided to withdraw the lot.

“The consignor has now decided to loan the specimen to a museum for public display.”

The T-rex, nicknamed Shen, was initially described as a "world-class specimen", of "museum standard", and the first skeleton of its species to come to auction in Asia — with "54 per cent represented by bone density".

However, in recent weeks, a lawyer from a US fossil company, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, contacted Christie's to point out similarities between Shen and Stan — another T-rex skeleton Christies sold for $31.8 million in 2020, and is now set to go on display at Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi.

Black Hills Institute still retains the intellectual property rights over Stan, which allows it to sell painted polyurethane casts of the skeleton, priced at $120,000 each. Black Hills president, Peter Larson, pointed out that there were similarities between the two dinosaur skulls, including holes in the lower jaw that were unique to Stan.

Almost all dinosaur skeletons are incomplete, and reconstructed using casts of other specimens' bones. While Stan has 190 original bones, Shen was believed to have about 79.

Larson told The New York Times that he thought the owner of Shen may have supplemented original bones using a cast of Stan.

“They’re using Stan to sell a dinosaur that’s not Stan,” Larson said. “It’s very misleading.”

Scroll through images of the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi's growing collection below

Updated: November 21, 2022, 8:40 AM