An exceptionally well-preserved 65 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur nest with some broken eggs exposing tiny skeletons is up for auction in Los Angeles on Sunday.
The nest of raptors, fierce predatory dinosaurs, is expected to fetch between $180,000 and $200,000.
“It is probably one of the finest dinosaur egg nests in the world. For the tiny skeletons still to be inside the eggs, folded up beautifully like this, means that they had to be almost ready to hatch,” said Thomas Lindgren, consulting director of natural history for the auction firm Bonhams and Butterfields.
Lindgren said the 22-egg nest, encased in sandstone and containing 10 complete embryos, originated in China. It had been in the hands of private collectors in Asia for the past 20 years before being sold to an American.
Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on scientific preparation and studies to determine exactly which of the six to eight known species of small raptor is represented by the eggs in the nest. That will be revealed in an academic paper now being prepared for publication next year.
The auction, which also includes several prehistoric skeletons and dinosaur bones, teeth and partial nests, comes at a time of renewed international interest in dinosaurs — particularly in Asia, where several nations are pushing ahead with museum building programs.
“Dinosaurs are hotter than ever. It is a very collectible market, especially for higher-quality specimens,” Lindgren said.
Lindgren said the nest may remain in private hands rather than going to a museum, at least initially.
“Unfortunately, most museums are slow at being able to put together funding at short notice. But that doesn’t mean it won’t end up going to an institution. Most of the museums in the United States have been founded by private collections that have been donated by individuals,” he said.