December 14, 2009
This past October, many paleontologists were worried about the fate of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton nicknamed “Samson.”
With about 50 percent of his bones recovered, Samson is one of the most complete individual Tyrannosaurus skeletons found to date. This makes Samson a very important specimen. The more bones of an individual that you have, the better you can compare it to other skeletons to see how individual Tyrannosaurus were different.
Rather than going to a museum, though, Samson ended up on the auction bloc in Las Vegas. This put the skeleton at risk of falling into the hands of a private buyer who might treat it as more of a trophy than something worthy of scientific study. Hence there was some relief when Samson did not sell—but this brought up new questions. What was going to happen to Samson now?
After the auction was over, there was some buzz about behind-closed-doors deals that might place Samson in the care of scientists. Rather than put the skeleton back up for auction, the new plan was to find a museum that might want to strike a deal for the Tyrannosaurus, and last week it was announced that Samson will be going to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It doesn’t look the arrangement will be permanent, though. Samson will only be on display there from December 17 through the summer of 2010, and where the skeleton will turn up after that is unknown. If the economy rebounds, the Tyrannosaurus may very well end up at auction for another round of bidding, which again would put this skeleton at risk of becoming little more than a curio for a rich private owner.
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