'Sabre-toothed tiger' skeleton up for auction
An almost 40 million year old skeleton of a so-called saber-toothed tiger is going under the hammer in Geneva next week, a year after it was discovered on a US ranch.
The roughly 120 centimeter long skeleton is expected to fetch between 60,000 and 80,000 Swiss francs (66,560 to 88,750 US dollars; 55,300 to 73,750 euros) in the Swiss city on December 8.
"This fossil is particularly exceptional for its preservation: it is 37 million years old and 90 percent complete," Bernard Piguet, director of Piguet auction house, told AFP on Tuesday.
"The few missing bones were made from scratch with a 3D printer," he added, with the skeleton reconstructed around a black metal frame.
Piguet said he was intrigued by the fusion of "extremely old with modern technology".
The original bones are those of a Hoplophoneus. Not exactly a true member of the feline family, they're an extinct genus of the Nimravidae family and have roamed North America.
Such extinct predators are commonly referred to as saber-toothed tigers.
"It was found in South Dakota during the last excavation season towards the end of summer 2019," Swiss collector Yann Cuenin, who owns dozen of auctioned paleontology lots, told AFP.
"As with most finds, the erosion had exposed part of the skeleton. As the ranch owner walked around his property, he saw bones sticking out of the ground."
While the skeleton is the star of the show, there are plenty of other treasures from the past up for grabs, including ammolite, an opal-like organic gemstone in shades of red and orange.
The 40 cm long and 36 cm wide fossil from the Cretaceous Period is 75 million years old and comes from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 Swiss francs will be achieved.
Jurassic Park enthusiasts can also buy a Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth (2,200 to 2,800 Swiss francs) or an impressive 85 cm fin from a mosasaur for 5,000 to 7,000 Swiss francs - a marine reptile that spearheaded the submarine in the Cretaceous period. Food chain.
- history versus art -
Although dinosaur mania began in the United States, it has grown in Europe in recent years. The sale in the next week is the second time that such an auction is held in Switzerland.
In September 2019, a collector based in Switzerland bought the skeleton of a 66 million year old and three meter long dinosaur skeleton (Thescelosaurus neglectus) for 225,000 francs.
The debate rages over the balance between the scientific value of such items and their value in the free market.
Some paleontologists insist that animal or vegetable fossils are not decorative objects for collectors, but rather witnesses to the evolution of life on earth and therefore scientific objects that should be studied and then made available to the public in museums.
But Cuenin said, "When we talk about the saber-toothed tiger, for example, it is not a skeleton that is of great scientific interest in the sense that it is something that science is already familiar with.
"We found several dozen of them, individuals of the same species.
"A fossil is not just a simple scientific or technical object, it also has artistic value," he said.
Piguet added: "The museums are already well stocked.
"I'm everything for museums, but I'm also for objects that live among us; for collectors, for buying and selling pieces - that's what brings culture to life."
apo / rjm / yy
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