It’s been a dinosaury week so far at the British Science Festival! Our event, ‘Dinosaurs, monsters and myths’ kicked off a huge amount of press coverage for Nanotyrannus, a disputed new species. Once thought to be a juvenile T. Rex, Nanotyrannus now appears to be confirmed, thanks to a beautiful new specimen which has been discovered in Montana by a real life dinosaur cowboy. That’s right, a Dinosaur Cowboy.
Here he is with his find…
‘This is possibly the most amazing fossil in the world’ says the University of Manchester’s Dr Phil Manning, who also described the fossil as ‘lickable.’
It was found locked in combat with a specimen of Triceratops, which had Nanotyrannus teeth embedded in its neck. The two probably fought to the death around 67 million years ago.
‘It was a bad day for both of them’ says Phil. ‘If you’re prey, you’re going to do everything you can not to be eating. You’re going to fight.’
But the specimen is more than just aesthetically pleasing. If Nanotyrannus is a distinct species, it will change our understanding of the ecosystem of the late Cretaceous, with another predator on the scene.
The specimen’s long, swan like neck and long arms suggest it cannot be simply a juvenile T. Rex. Instead, Phil suggests, Nanotyrannus “filled an intermediate ecological niche between the vast T. rex and the contemporary dromeosaur predators.”
It sounds like a pretty significant find. However, only a few scientists, including Phil, have so far had access to the fossil. And on 19 November, the ‘Montana Duelling Dinosaurs’ will be put up for auction at Bonhams in New York, with no guarantee that they’ll be available for researchers after the sale.
‘If it goes to a private collector, I’ll have to unlearn what I’ve seen’ says Phil, who is convinced Nanotyrannus represents a distinct species, the ‘cheetah of the Cretaceous.’ Anyone with around $7 – $9 million to spend could own the fossil, meaning other scientists may not be able to study it to confirm findings so far.
‘I hope a museum will be able to acquire it’ says Phil, ‘even if not for a few generations.’
‘We don’t usually view fossils in terms of the financial value. We see art being sold around the world all the time, with an associated value, but when something as precious and priceless as this comes onto the market, we worry about whether it should be sold at all.’
‘And it’s BEAUTIFUL’ he adds. ‘Seriously, a beautiful object in its own right.’
So, if any of our readers happen to have $9 million kicking about, do get in touch. The palaeontologists of the world will be eternally grateful.
Read more about Nanotyrannus:
‘Montana duelling dinosaurs could fetch $9 million at auction’ (The Guardian)
‘Mortal combat: Unique duelling dinosaur fossil could be lost to science when it is auctioned for up to £6m’ (The Independent)
‘Science ‘could lose’ duelling dinosaurs’ (BBC)
‘Palaeontologist leads battle to save fighting dinosaurs fossil’ (The Financial Times)
‘Scientists warn rare dinosaur auction could harm research’ (The Telegraph)