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Businessinsider.co.za | a Dinosaur Skeleton That Was Only Half-real Sold at Christie’s for Over R189 Million

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Vicky Leta/Insider

Vicky Leta/Insider

An incomplete skeleton of the dinosaur deinonychus sold at Christie’s for $12.4 million (R195.5 million).Two paleontologists said the sale represents an “alarming trend” in inflated prices on fossils.They said wealthy private buyers are effectively pricing researchers and museums out of the market.For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Some millionaires buy yachts, others buy Rolexes. Some buy dinosaurs.

Christie’s auction house sold a specimen of the dinosaur deinonychus, nicknamed “Hector,” for $12.4 million (R195.5 million) late on Thursday. The sale price was more than doubling the estimated price that was placed on the lot.

Deinonychus was a carnivorous raptor that walked the Earth around 110 million years ago, with scythe-like claws on its feet. It served as the inspiration behind the velociraptors in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.” Real-life velociraptors were just over 1.5 feet tall.

Two paleontologists told Insider that the auction of Hector is the latest installment in a deeply worrying trend where private buyers snap up dinosaur fossils at exorbitant prices, effectively pricing researchers and museums out of the market.

The huge price tag on Hector was especially shocking given the fact the skeleton is far from complete. Christie’s said Hector comprises 126 fossil bones and the rest of him is a reconstructed cast.

Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, told Insider he estimates that about half of Hector’s original bones are present.

“Deranged prices like these for dinosaur skeletons, even incomplete ones like this, will all but eliminate museums, research, and education. It’s totally unsustainable for our field,” Brusatte added.

He added the problem of fossil price inflation has gotten “ridiculously worse.”

Hector isn’t the first blockbuster dinosaur to fetch a huge price tag at Christie’s. In 2020, the auction house sold a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton named “Stan” to an unknown buyer for $32 million (R504 million).

“$12.4 million (R195.5 million) for a significantly smaller and less complete dinosaur indicates an alarming trend upwards,” Thomas Carr, an associate professor at Carthage College, told Insider.

Brusatte and Carr agreed that Hector is a fossil of huge importance, as even with a lot of bones missing it is potentially one of the best and most complete fossils of deinonychus ever found.

“The loss of one good skeleton of Deinonychus is quite damaging to science because there aren’t many fossils of that dinosaur at all,” Carr said.

Both paleontologists said because fossils like Stan and Hector go to private bidders, there’s little to no transparency around who owns them.

Stan is slated to appear at a new museum in Abu Dhabi, although Carr and Brusatte both said it is still unclear who exactly owns the fossil.

At one point, it was speculated that Stan had been bought by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson later debunked the rumour and explained he owned a cast of Stan’s skull rather than the actual fossil.

Stan on display at Christie’s in New York in 2020.

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

“If I was the proud owner of the real STAN, I sure as hell wouldn’t keep him in my office,” Johnson said in an Instagram post. “I’d keep him in a museum, so the world could enjoy, study and learn from him.”

According to Brusatte, private owners of dinosaur fossils don’t usually share The Rock’s approach to paleontology.

“Most of the time these fossils literally disappear into the collection of some nameless uber-rich person,” Brusatte said.

Carr said the gold rush for privately owned dinosaur skeletons has already impacted his work, giving the example that roughly half the sample size of T. Rex specimens has been walled off by private purchases.

“That’s about 50 specimens that I can’t include in my research because the commercial trade will sell fossils to anyone who can afford extortion-level prices,” he said.

Less than 20% of privately collected T. Rex fossils have made it back into a museum, he added. 

Brusatte said he’s not ideologically opposed to people privately owning fossils.

“Collecting these kinds of fossils are what got me into paleontology. Finding my own fossils as a teenager was intoxicating. I wouldn’t want to take that magic, that opportunity away from anybody,” he said.

“What I object to specifically is these dinosaurs becoming commodities that are now selling at such insanely high prices that only a handful of the very richest people in the world can afford them,” he said.

Christie’s did not respond when contacted by Insider for this article.

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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