A Rare Skeleton of the Raptor That Inspired the Villains of ‘Jurassic Park’ Is the Star of Christie’s 20th Century Art Evening Sale

The extremely rare specimen is said to be the most complete and definitive version of a Deinonychus antirrhopus skeleton in existence.

Deinonychus Antirrhopus, Montana, USA. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd.

Extinct for millions of years but thought to be one of the most cunning and agile dinosaurs ever, Deinonychus antirrhopus is popularly known as the inspiration for the velociraptors at the heart of the Jurassic Park movie franchise. A rare fossil of the carnivorous species is stalking its way to New York this month, where it will form the backbone of the Christie’s marquee spring evening sale on May 12. 

The extremely rare specimen is said to be the most complete and definitive version of a Deinonychus skeleton in existence, and is incredibly well preserved. It is nearly 10 feet long and contains 126 fossilized bones dating back approximately 115 to 108 million years. It was excavated seven years ago in Wolf Canyon, Montana, and has been in private hands since then.

James Hyslop, Christie’s head of rare books, travel and science, said “the Raptor’s presence is truly captivating and ultimately a reminder that this iconic predator remains truly thrilling to a worldwide audience and an everlasting moment of the zeitgeist.” He added that it was “an absolute privilege to showcase a rare dinosaur species, especially one so revered both globally and culturally.”

Deinonychus antirrhopus, which weighed up to 100 pounds and was about the size of a wolf, was believed to have hunted solo while roaming across central and Eastern Asia in the late Cretaceous period. The species was first identified by paleontologist John Ostrom in 1969, who dubbed it “terrible claw” (Deinonychus), due to its highly agile and dexterous hind legs clad with a spear-like killing mechanism designed to hunt and subdue prey. 

The species was the inspiration for the “velociraptors” depicted in Michael Crichton’s popular science fiction novel Jurassic Park, about cloned dinosaurs running amok, which was made into a Hollywood blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993. Velociraptors are actually a different, smaller species, but Crichton reportedly thought their name sounded more “dramatic”.

The lot will remain on view in Christie’s New York showroom through to May 11, where eager dinosaur fans can marvel at a predator that lived 50 million years before the reign of Tyrannosaurus Rex. But it is unlikely to break the record of the king of dinosaurs, set by a specimen affectionately known as Stan, which sold for $31.8 million at Christie’s New York in October 2020. 

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