The cancellation came after an American fossil company voiced suspicions that parts of the skeleton called "Shen" were replicas of another skeleton.

Christie's original materials said about 80 of Shen's bones were original.
Christie's original materials said about 80 of Shen's bones were original. (Reuters)

Christie's has called off the auction of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton days before it was due to go under the hammer in Hong Kong.

The 1,400-kilogramme (3,100-pound) skeleton named "Shen" was withdrawn from Christie's autumn auctions week that starts in Hong Kong on Friday, the auction house said in a statement on Monday.

"The consignor has now decided to loan the specimen to a museum for public display," it said.

Its auction would have followed the sale of another T-rex skeleton named "Stan" by Christie's for $31.8 million in 2020.

The cancellation came after an American fossil company raised doubts about parts of the skeleton, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The controversy was sparked when Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in the United States, told the New York Times that parts of Shen looked similar to Stan.

Experts say the trade of dinosaur skeletons is harmful to science as the auctions could put them in private hands and out of the reach of researchers.
Experts say the trade of dinosaur skeletons is harmful to science as the auctions could put them in private hands and out of the reach of researchers. (Reuters)

Bones from a replica?

Excavated from the US state of Montana, Shen stands 4.6 metres (15 feet) tall and 12 metres long and is thought to be an adult male that lived about 67 million years ago.

It is very rare for complete dinosaur skeletons to be found, according to The Field Museum in Chicago, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

Most frames on display use casts of bones to complete the skeleton. The Field Museum estimates the number of bones in a T-rex at 380.

Christie's original materials said about 80 of Shen's bones were original.

The Black Hills Institute holds the intellectual property rights to Stan, even after its sale in 2020, and sells replicas of that skeleton.

Peter Larson told the Times that it seemed to him that Shen's owner, not identified by Christie's, used bones from a Stan replica to complete the skeleton.

The auction house's spokesman Edward Lewine told the newspaper that Christie's believes Shen "would benefit from further study".

Sales of such skeletons have raked in tens of millions of dollars in recent years, but experts have described the trade as harmful to science as the auctions could put them in private hands and out of the reach of researchers.

Source: AFP