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PARIS, April 10, 2018 (AFP) — The skeletons of an allosaurus and a diplodocus are up for auction in Paris this week, marketed as hip interior design objects — for those with big enough living rooms.

“The fossil market is no longer just for scientists,” said Iacopo Briano of Binoche et Giquello, the auction house that is putting the two dinosaurs under the hammer tomorrow.

“Dinosaurs have become cool, trendy — real objects of decoration, like paintings,” the Italian expert told AFP, citing Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage as fans of such outsize prehistoric ornaments.

Cage, however, did hand back the rare skull of a tyrannosaurus bataar, a close cousin of T. rex, that he bought in 2007 after it was found to have been stolen and illegally taken out of Mongolia.

Dinosaur bones are increasingly gracing collectors’ cabinets, with another huge skeleton, that of a theropod, expected to fetch up to €1.5 million when it goes up for auction in June.

 “For the last two or three years the Chinese have become interested in palaeontology and have been looking for big specimens of dinosaurs found on their soil, for their museums or even for individuals,” Briano said.

The new buyers are now bidding against multinational corporations as well as ultra-rich Europeans and Americans, the “traditional” buyers of dinosaur skeletons, Briano added.

In 1997, McDonald’s and Walt Disney were among donors stumping up $8.36 million to buy Sue — the most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found — for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

“Millions of people come to see it, it is incredible publicity for companies,” said Eric Mickeler, a natural history expert for the Aguttes auction house.

Palaeontologists acknowledge that many fossils that go on the block are of limited scientific interest, but important specimens do go up for auction and can, as in Sue’s case, be bought through acts of patronage.

The market remains small and “isn’t for everybody”, Mickeler said.

Only around five dinosaurs are put up for auction around the world every year.

The allosaurus which goes on sale tomorrow (On Wednesday), among 87 lots of natural artefacts, is considered “small” at 3.8 metres long.

It is expected to fetch up to €650,000, while the diplodocus — despite being bigger at 12 metres long from nose to tail — has a guide price of €450,000 to €500,000.

 

LONDON, April 4 (AFP) - Dinosaur footprints dating back 170 million years have been discovered on a Scottish island and will help shed light on the reptiles’ evolution, the University of Edinburgh said.

The footprints are in a muddy, shallow lagoon on the Isle of Skye.

The largest print, left by a sauropod, measures 70 centimetres across. Long-necked sauropods were up to two metres tall.

“The find is globally important as it is rare evidence of the Middle Jurassic period, from which few fossil sites have been found around the world,” the university said in a statement.

Researchers are documenting about 50 footprints in the area, including those of theropods - an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex - which measure around 50 centimetres across.

They used drone photographs to make a map of the site.

Paige dePolo, who led the study, said the find “demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known”.

The research was carried out in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the findings have been published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.