Sunday, 9 March 2008

'Horrible' American dinosaur for sale in French auction

A three-horned vegetarian dinosaur from North America has gone on display at a Paris auction house ahead of its sale next month along with the skull of a sabre-toothed tiger and giant shark teeth.

The skeleton of the 65-million-year-old Triceratops horridus (horrible three-horned face) is expected to fetch 500,000 euros (760,000 dollars) at the April 16 sale, said Christie's auctioneers.

It will be the first time such a dinosaur specimen has gone up for public sale since a T-Rex called Sue was sold in New York in 1997.

The four-legged herbivorous dinosaur, from a private European collection, is the highlight among the 150 objects at the April auction. It measures 7.5 metres (25 feet) in length and bears a large bony frill and three horns.

The triceratops' head alone weights about 200 kilos (440 pounds) while total body weight is about two tonnes.

The skeleton was found by a ranch owner in the US state of North Dakota and acquired in 2004 by a European buyer who wants to remain anonymous, said a Christie's spokesman.

"This specimen is the fourth most complete discovered so far," he said.

More than 70 percent of its bones are real, with the rest being copied in resin and added to the frame.

In all, 150 items from natural history collections -- fossils, skeletons and minerals -- valued at some 1.6 million euros will be up for auction.

The sabre-toothed tiger skull is expected to fetch up to 45,000 euros, while a set of fossilized giant shark teeth have been valued at up to 4,000 euros.

Christie's said it hoped to build on the success of last year's paleontology auction that brought in more than a million euros and established 12 world records.

Also up for bids will be a tyrannosaurus egg, mineralized in agate, valued at between 20,000 and 25,000 euros; and an apatosaurus dinosaur tibia from the Jurassic Period, which is expected to raise up to 30,000 euros.

A private German museum is offering a well-conserved cranium of an edmontosaurus, a duck-beaked dinosaur, estimated at between 70,000 and 80,000 euros.

Mineral specimens are also expected to draw interest, including six Condor agates and a 400-kilo copper leaf discovered in the US state of Michigan, which is estimated at between 30,000 and 35,000 euros.

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