$31.8m T.rex called Stan to go on show at Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi

The most expensive fossil to be sold at auction will be joined by a fragment of the Murchison meteorite, plus local examples of flora, fauna and geological history

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A Tyrannosaurus rex called Stan - the most expensive fossil to be sold at auction - will go on display at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi when its doors open in 2025.

The 67-million-year-old, 11.7-metre specimen, thought to be the world's most duplicated T. rex fossil, fetched $31.8million at a Christie’s auction in 2020.

The skeleton was discovered in South Dakota in 1987 by amateur palaeontologist Stan Sacrison, after whom the fossil was named, who saw the dinosaur's pelvis on the side of a cliff when he was inspecting plants.

It is said more people have seen Stan, or casts of him, than any other T. rex. Around 60 copies of him are said to exist.

The real thing was sold at auction in 2020, but the buyer remained a mystery at the time.

He was tracked by National Geographic, having been exported from New York to the UAE in May last year. The reason was unclear until the museum's opening was announced this week.

“The Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will become an important part of the Saadiyat Cultural District,” said Dr Mark Beech, archaeology unit head at the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi.

The museum's design alludes to natural rock formations, reflecting on its mission of engaging the public with the natural world. Photo: DCT – Abu Dhabi

“It will take its place among the top natural history museums in the world, committed to public education and developing and sharing scientific research.

“In the museum, local natural examples of flora and fauna and geological history will be part of the journey. One of the highlights of the natural history museum Abu Dhabi is Stan, the Tyrannosaurus rex. This is a beautiful dinosaur, 11.7 metres long, 67 million years old.

“Stan has a 70 per cent complete skeleton and one of the best-preserved T-rex skulls ever found," he said.

The dinosaur once featured as the centrepiece for the opening of a T. rex world exhibition and toured Japan before finding a home in the Black Hills Institute's Hall of Dinosaurs in the US for more than two decades before the sale.

Scientists have learned a lot about the species by studying Stan’s skeleton, particularly the movement of the skull bones.

His skull was perfectly preserved, and his bones were in pristine condition when they were found.

But his skeleton bears evidence of multiple attacks and illnesses he suffered throughout his life.

He has puncture wounds on the back of his skull, which suggests he was bitten by a fellow T. rex. His skeleton features several additional punctures, in signs of other scrapes.

The Black Hills Institute, which found and exhibited him until a couple of years ago, said he probably lived with other family members.

The cause of his death is not known but could have been due to old age, starvation, limited movement due to his injuries, or even parasitic infection.

Go on a journey through time

The coming museum will also feature a fragment of the Murchison meteorite, which crash-landed in Australia in 1969. The specimen was determined to be 7 billion years old, far older than the 4.54 billion-year-old Earth and solar system. It contains the oldest particulate matter ever found on Earth.

Visitors to the museum will travel on a 13.8 billion year journey through time and space.

It will feature local natural examples of flora and fauna and geological history, looking at natural history through an Arabian lens for the first time.

The design of the building is inspired by natural rock formations and will feature greenery flowing down the sides, according to renderings for the project.

What is a natural history museum?

They aim to help improve our understanding of the natural world by displaying specimens related to life and earth science. Typical collections include botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.

The world’s first natural history museum was established in Zurich in the 16th century. But it is said the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK, was the first to open for the general public in 1683.

The Natural History Museum in London is one of the world’s most famous. It features around 80 million items, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin, who developed a theory of evolution based on natural selection.

It is particularly famous for its dinosaur skeletons. The museum's central hall used to feature a cast of a large diplodocus. In 2017, it was replaced with a skeleton of a blue whale, which hangs from the ceiling.

Updated: March 25, 2022, 4:22 AM
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