First Predatory Dinosaur to Go on Sale in Britain

23/09/2015     Natural History

First Predatory Dinosaur to Go on Sale in Britain
A very rare skeleton of a Juvenile Allosaurus included in Evolution Auction this November

This is the first predatory dinosaur skeleton to be sold in Great Britain and it is very rare to find an almost complete juvenile Allosaurus skeleton. It is 285 cm long and is expected to fetch £300,000 to £500,000 when it comes up for sale at Summers PlaceAuctions on the 25th November 2015 as part of the third Evolution Sale.

The Allosaurus lived 155 to 145 million years ago during the late Jurassic Period. It was one of the largest predatory dinosaurs of the time sometimes reaching 8 metres (28 ft) in length. Although exceeded in size by its famous relative Tyrannosaurus Rex (a species that lived some 80 million years later), it was still a truly awesome predator. It was found at a quarry in Wyoming, and it still retains an articulated skull showing a set of dagger-like teeth. In 2007 one of the most remarkable finds in palaeontological terms was made at the same quarry when both an Allosaurus and a Stegosaurus were found close together, so close, in fact that limb bones of the Stegosaurus were almost inside the jaws of the Allosaurus, proving for the first time that these two dinosaurs really had engaged in battle.

When this Allosaurus was found recently by a dinosaur hunter, he started the usual 'detective' work on the latest find. Once the team have found bones, which they suspect to belong to one dinosaur, they will try and identify the species before continuing with the excavation work, keeping in mind that this fossil will be ultimately prepared to be on display in a museum, other institution or a private home.

It is a long and costly process, which involves many different disciplines and approaches. Much knowledge, skill, experience and expertise are needed and although the work is often physically demanding, it also requires at times incredible delicacy, patience and artistic vision. Although much of the preparations will be done afterwards under laboratory conditions, the first and most crucial part begins at the site.

Errol Fuller, curator of the Evolution sale, who has visited the quarry, explains the next steps: “The rocks at this quarry have weathered in such a way that the actual bones often lie at, or close to the surface, but this doesn't mean that the job of extracting them is an easy one. The rock is hard and each bone has to be carefully chipped and scraped from its stony case. There is no way of knowing what important additional find may lie beneath, so each scrape must be undertaken with extreme care, and the area must continually be brushed free of debris. Some of the bones are gigantic, some are tiny but all must be approached with the same degree of caution to ensure that nothing of importance is overlooked. Once a bone, or a series of bones, is located, the exact position is carefully mapped so that vital evidence is not lost when the specimens are finally
removed from the ground. Grids are drawn up and the precise placements of the bones are plotted, with each bone being allotted a number to eliminate the possibility of later confusion.”

The actual work of removing the bone may take hours or even days, depending on size and nature of the material. Different techniques will be used to solve various different problems – a bone may be unstable and liable to crumble or it may be hard and very solid.

Once enough of a bone had been revealed, the top will usually be covered in plaster and then the rock beneath the fossil will be undercut until it is possible to lift it free from the stone that surrounds it. Then, when all is judged to be stable, it can be crated and transported to the laboratory so that the fine work of preparation and mounting can begin.

Wrapped in plaster and carefully labelled, the fossils are ready for shipment to the laboratory. Here the plaster is removed and the painstaking work of preparation can begin. Again, many different techniques can be employed. During the whole process,
reference will be made to the 'map' that was prepared at the site and which shows exactly how the bones lay when they were found. This ensures that all bones can be correctly identified. Once the plaster cases are opened, the bones must be completely freed from any rock that remains attached to them, using scrapers, drills, brushes, or acids where appropriate. If necessary they must be treated with preservatives to consolidate them or ensure that their condition will not deteriorate, and they must be repaired if they are broken. These processes can be very delicate operations and they are usually very timeconsuming.

When all this is done, a decision has to be made on how the fossils should be articulated and the position in which the skeleton should be posed. Ideally, when a dinosaur skeleton is assembled, it is done in a way that will allow easy dismantling, as large dinosaur bones are very heavy, but also fragile. Once all these decisions are made, sensibly sized sections can be shipped and the entire fossilized skeleton can be re-assembled.

Rupert van der Werff, director at Summers Place Auctions, says: “We are pleased to be offering this skeleton to our global customers, and expect a lot of European and Asian interest in this. The Allosaurus, together with the T-Rex, has become the quintessentially large, carnivorous dinosaur in western popular culture. Given the size of this Allosaurus it also adds the cute factor and it may not just attract interest from museums, but could also
be the wow factor in luxurious living room.”

The Allosaurus has been mentioned in literature and films since the early 20th century. In The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle (1912), the Allosaurus is the top predator and features greatly in the 1925 film adaptation – the first full-length motion picture to feature dinosaurs. It has featured in many books and films since.

For further information on the auction, please visit or call 01403 331331.
For press information or images please contact Silke Lohmann
( 07932 618754).

Summers Place Auctions are the world's leading auctioneers of Garden Statuary and Natural History.

The sales are held in the award winning 5000sq ft gallery nestling within 6 acres of walled gardens
and the arboretum of the Victorian mansion, Summers Place.

Allosaurus was a large bipedal predator. The name "Allosaurus" means "different lizard" and it is derived from the Greek. The first mention of this fossil is from 1877 when paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh described it and called it Antrodemus. As one of the first well-known theropod dinosaurs, it has long attracted attention outside of paleontological circles and has been featured in many films and documentaries about prehistoric life.

The bulk of Allosaurus remains have come from North America and the quantity of well-preserved partial Allosaurus remains has allowed this genus to be known in detail, making it among the bestknown theropods. It is one of the dinosaurs, most is known about.

Allosaurus was at the top of the food chain, probably preying on contemporaneous large herbivorous dinosaurs and perhaps even other predators. Potential prey included Ornithopods, Stegosaurids and Sauropods. Some paleontologists interpret Allosaurus as having had cooperative social behaviour and hunting in packs, while others believe individuals may have been aggressive toward each other, and that congregations of this genus are the result of lone individuals feeding on the same carcasses. It may have attacked large prey by ambush, using its upper jaw like a hatchet.