‘Sabre-toothed tiger’ skeleton up for auction

GENEVA (AFP) – A nearly 40-million-year-old skeleton belonging to what is popularly called a sabre-toothed tiger is going under the hammer next week in Geneva, a year after its discovery on a United States (US) ranch.

The skeleton, some 120 centimetres long, is expected to fetch between CHF60,000 and CHF80,000 (USD66,560 to USD88,750; EUR55,300 to EUR73,750) at auction on December 8 in the Swiss city.

“This fossil is exceptional, above all for its conservation: it’s 37 million years old, and it’s 90 per cent complete,” Director Bernard Piguet of the Piguet auction house, told AFP on Tuesday.

“The few missing bones were remade with a 3D printer,” he added, with the skeleton reconstructed around a black metal frame.

Piguet said he was fascinated by the merger of “the extremely old with modern technologies”.

The original bones are those of a Hoplophoneus. Not strictly a true member of the cat family, they are an extinct genus of the Nimravidae family and stalked around North America.

Such extinct predatory mammals are commonly called sabre-toothed tigers.

“It was found in South Dakota during the last excavation season, towards the end of summer 2019,” Swiss collector Yann Cuenin, who owns the dozens of paleontology lots on auction, told AFP.

The remains were discovered on a South Dakota ranch in 2019. PHOTO: PHYS.ORG

“As in most finds, erosion had unearthed part of the skeleton. While walking around his property, the ranch owner saw bones sticking out of the ground.”

While the skeleton is the star of the show, there are plenty of other treasures from the past up for grabs, including ammolite, an opal-like organic gemstone, in shades of red and orange.

Measuring 40 centimetres long by 36 centimetres wide, the fossil from the Cretaceous period is 75 million years old and hails from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is estimated to fetch between CHF20,000 and CHF30,000.

Jurassic Park enthusiasts can also buy a Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth (CHF2,200 to 2,800), or, for CHF5,000 to CHF7,000, an impressive 85 centimetres long fin from a mosasaur – a marine reptile that in the Cretaceous period was at the top of the submarine food chain.

Though dinosaur-mania began in the US, it has grown in Europe in recent years. Next week’s sale is the second time such an auction has been held in Switzerland.