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An enormous dinosaur with a frilly collar and horns as big as you, is up for sale14 min read

September 6, 2021 7 min read


An enormous dinosaur with a frilly collar and horns as big as you, is up for sale14 min read

Reading Time: 7 minutes
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How tall are you? 4 feet tall? Maybe 5 feet? Perhaps a few of you may even be 6 feet tall. Well, don’t worry, you’ll still be smaller than just the head of the dinosaur up for auction next month. That’s right, someone is about to own the real skeleton of almost an entire dinosaur, and everyone who visits them is about to feel incredibly small. 

Skull Dinosaur Sticker

So, what’s happening? And what Skeleton? Moreover, can you buy these jumbo bones? Let’s find out. 

The Auction

Hôtel Drouot: The World's Oldest Auction House
An art auction at Dourot Auction House in Paris, France. Image: France Today

This year, on the 21st of October, the Drouot auction house in Paris is about to put a very large dinosaur, Big John, up for auction. Rumour has it that this particular prehistoric creature will be sold for between 1.4 and 1.8 MILLION dollars. That’s at least 10 crore rupees!!

Big John isn’t the only dinosaur that’s been up for sale lately. Click on this image to meet the T-Rex Stan, the world’s most expensive dinosaur.
Sale Discount Sticker by flintbabyshop

An auction is an event where items are sold without a fixed price. These items are so valuable that people compete to own them. That means people from far and wide will offer to pay different amounts of money for this dinosaur to become their own private possession. The person with the highest offer or bid will then go home with the item. 

An offer made at an auction is known as a bid.

I Want It Cat Sticker by GORO

Big John

Now, let’s meet the dinosaur himself– a round of applause— for Big John.

People are expected to bid at 10 crores for the collection of bones that made up this dinosaur’s body. So, what is it about Big John that makes him so highly sought-after? 

To know about the magnificence of Big John, we’re going to have to meet his family first. Big John belongs to a group (genus) of enormous dinosaurs known as triceratops dinosaurs. 

Meet and Greet the Triceratops

This dinosaur group is distinctly known for the bony frill that covers the back of their heads and the three horns that adorn their huge skulls. 

Triceratops Horns
The triceratops has two big horns and one smaller one. Image: Scienceviews.com

Triceratops’ bony head plate and three horns would attract mates, scare off their enemies, and protect their necks.

Triceratops Horns Used in Battle | Live Science
An image depicting the ways in which they believe triceratops dinosaurs locked horns. Image: Live Science

The massive skull of triceratops was one-third the length of its entire body!

Eat Plant Based Diet GIF by Jef Caine

They were about the same size as African elephants. The triceratops was slightly smaller than the ferocious and terrifying T-rex. In fact, the T-Rex was the triceratops’ predator and enemy.

Triceratops dinosaurs were about 25 feet long and around 10 feet tall. Here’s a clue for you to better understand just how tall the triceratops was. It was about as long as a bus and about half as tall as a giraffe.


They may be humongous and terrifying, but if you ever encounter a triceratops dinosaur, you don’t need to fear. Triceratops’ were a vegetarian genus of dinosaurs. 

When we say that Big John is a triceratops, what do we really mean? You may think that it’s the equivalent of calling ourselves human. Not quite. Human or Homo sapiens sapiens is the species to which we belong. However, Big John’s species is not known.

Nonetheless, we do know a broader group within the animal kingdom that perfectly encompasses Big John. That group or genus is known as ‘triceratops’. Look at this image to understand how Big John fits into our very own animal kingdom.

The Triceratops skeleton is 66 million years old.
Big John’s Colossal Skeleton. Image: CNN

Triceratops’ skeletons have been found across the North American Continent, and they roamed the planet between 67 and 65 million years. Check out this chart to better understand when these vegetarian giants traipsed around. 

The Biggest Triceratops

The size of the triceratops in comparison with the rest of the prehistoric world. Image: Jurassic World

Big John is the enormous triceratops that is up for sale this year. Scientists were able to piece together a whopping 60 per cent of Big John’s skeleton, and over 75 per cent of his skull is fully intact. Once all of Big John’s bones were assembled by a team of scientists, they realised that not only is Big John a magnificent Triceratops, but he is also the biggest one that there is. No wonder Big John comes at such a hefty price.

Big John’s Skull weighs over 700 kilograms!

Workers bring the triceratops’ skull into the gallery where it is going on show
Big John’s Skull. Image: The Guardian

Discovering Big John 

File:Hell Creek dinosaurs and pterosaurs by durbed.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
All the dinosaurs found in the Hell Creek Formation. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Walter W. Stein, a dinosaur enthusiast and palaeontologist, dug up Big John on an excursion in 2014. Stien found Big John in Hell Creek Formation, a site well-known for its rich collection of well-preserved fossilised bones. In fact, almost all of the triceratops discovered so far have been found in this area. 

Hell Creek Formation is now in the state of South Dakota in the United States of America. However, when Big John roamed the place, the famous dinosaur hub was a part of a small one-island continent that we humans have named Laramidia.

An image of the Hell Creek Formation

How did Big John’s fossil move between continents while staying in the exact same place? 

Big John’s big brawl

How did a triceratops fight a T. rex? - Quora
A triceratops fights off a T-Rex with its horns. Image: Quora

Hell Creek Formation is a flood plain or an area that often gets flooded. And every time the flooding is over and the water dries up, a layer of mud is left behind. Millions of years ago, when Big John died, he too was covered by thick mud, which enabled the bones to fossilise. 

Big John’s bones were so well preserved that scientists could identify a tiny dent in his collarbone. Scientists believe that this preserved dent suggests that the triceratops was wounded during a violent fight. They think that this big brawl was probably the result of a fight over territory or a possible mate.

Can you own Big John?

Ice Cube Friday Movie GIF

If you have 10 crores in the bank, fire up your jet because you can definitely own Big John. If you don’t, you’re just going to have to wait a while. 

But, as exciting as it may seem to own a dinosaur, scientists are concerned that if these fossils fall into the wrong hands, they could be lost to science forever. Most of the time, pieces like this are bought by museums or research centres that allow scientists and palaeontologists to access the fossil. However, occasionally, and more so in the recent past, rich people buy these fossils for their own amusement or with the goal of selling them for more money as the years pass and they become more and more valuable.

Paleontology | National Geographic Society
A palaeontologist carefully studies a fossil. Image: National Geographic

While most people may loan their fossils and artefacts to researchers and museums, there could be an odd person that keeps the fossil to themselves, and no one will be able to do anything about it.

Play Time Baby Sticker by BBC

The whole animal kingdom is related in one way or another! Yup!Your ancestors could have been slugs. Take a look at this chart of human classification and try to figure out how you could have been related to the Big John.

Animation Loop GIF by notofagus

Can anything be done if the Big John’s buyer decides not to share the Triceratops’ skeleton? If yes, what can be done? If no, why can’t anything be done?

With Excerpts From: CNN, Live Science, The Guardian, Jurassic World, Wikipedia, Science Views, and Britannica.

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