Forget Shark Week: Now’s Your Chance to Own a 190 Million-Year-Old Ocean Monster | Kanebridge News
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Forget Shark Week: Now’s Your Chance to Own a 190 Million-Year-Old Ocean Monster

By ABBY SCHULTZ
Wed, Jul 12, 2023 8:18amGrey Clock 4 min

Sotheby’s is selling mounted fossil skeletons of a Pteranodon from the late Cretaceous and a Plesiosaur from the lower Jurassic—both considered fearsome predators—at a natural history auction on July 26 in New York.

The Pteranodon, a flying species that existed some 85 million years ago, is expected to achieve as much as US$6 million. The Plesiosaur, a marine reptile that existed 190 million years ago, could achieve as much as US$800,000.

The fossils continue Sotheby’s foray into selling dinosaur bones. A year ago, the auction house sold a Gorgosaurus fossil for US$6.1 million, and in December, a Tyrannosaurus rex skull nicknamed Maximus also sold for US$6.1 million. Both sales include fees. The latter result fell far short of expectations that the 200-plus pound skull could fetch as much as US$20 million.

Fossil bones of the Pteranodon—named “Horus” in honour of an ancient Egyptian deity of kingship, protection, and sky—were found by an anonymous fossil hunter in 2002 in Logan County in Kansas. The bones had been buried under layers of chalk in the seabed of what was once an inland water body known as the Western Interior Seaway. The water had divided North America into two land masses at the time.

Pteranodon longiceps Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The resulting skeleton is one of the “largest well-preserved Pteranodons ever discovered,” Sotheby’s said in a news release, noting it is also the most complete and highest quality. Also, unusually, most of the original fossil bones are “essentially unrestored” without artificial filler, which the auction said is “especially ideal for scientific study and transparency of authenticity.” Mounted, the skeleton has a 20-foot wingspan.

The flying creature’s skull, however, was created with the help of 3-D restoration to fill in pieces that weren’t found at the site. Filling in missing parts of bone with sculpted epoxies or plasters that are painted to match the fossils is very common in the restoration of dinosaurs, because it’s extremely unlikely to ever dig up a full skeleton, according to Cassandra Hatton, global head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s.

“You are incredibly lucky if you have half of the pieces,” Hatton says. “You have to fill in those blanks in order to do the kind of 3-D, big T. rexes and Apatosauruses [seen] at Natural History Museums.”

Hatton mentions this as the auction house is selling these fossils in the wake of questions raised about the authenticity of other specimens that have been sold commercially. Perhaps the most high-profile example was the scheduled auction of a T. rex that Christie’s canceled after questions were raised about the specimen’s authenticity. The fossil skeleton was estimated to fetch at least US$15 million.

Clients have become “uncomfortable with the fact that it’s hard for people to tell the

difference, or the fact that unscrupulous people can easily pull the wool over people’s eyes,” Hatton says.

To ensure the Pteranodon’s authenticity is evident, those who prepared it for display didn’t attempt to meld the original fossil bone with sculpted materials. “It’s really clear when you look at it that O.K., ‘this is original’ and ‘this isn’t,’” she says.

The rib cage area, for example, includes a big plate on the sternum that’s original and attached to a sculpted rib cage. But there’s been no attempt to make the rib cage look like actual bone, so what’s real and what isn’t is obvious even to an untrained eye, Hatton says. Potential buyers also will be able to see an osteograph, or bone map, which lists the actual bones in the skeleton, in addition to a site map of the discovery, and photos of the dinosaur bones being excavated

“We wanted to be sure that people understood what was going on,” she says.

The 11-foot-long Plesiosaur Sotheby’s is selling was unearthed in the early 1990s in Blockley quarry, Gloucestershire, England. It was first prepared and studied by Mike Taylor, a British Plesiosaur expert, who discovered that it was a Cryptocleidus, a previously unknown species of the Jurassic, according to a Sotheby’s Paris catalog entry from 2010. The skeleton, which had been in a collection at a private museum in Germany, was sold at that time for €456,750. The current consignor is anonymous.

Unlike the Pteranodon, Sotheby’s doesn’t have a site map or photos of the Plesiosaur’s discovery, because no one at that time probably could have imagined the fossils being sold at a public auction, Hatton says.

The Plesiosaur has been nicknamed ‘Nessie’ in reference to the Loch Ness monster, as many sightings of the mythical beast describe a creature with similar features to the Plesiosaur, including a long neck, small head, and four flippers, Sotheby’s said. Reported sightings of the monster also increased in the years after the first Plesiosaur skeleton was discovered in 1823.

The highest price for a dinosaur skeleton to date is the nearly US$32 million, with fees, paid for a T. rex skeleton dubbed “Stan” in October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. The 39-foot-long skeleton will be displayed at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi when the institution opens in 2025.

Visitors to Sotheby’s New York galleries will have a chance to see if they can tell the difference between real bone and plaster casts by visiting the fossils on display before the auction later this month. The natural history sale is one in a series of “geek week” offerings at the auction house that also feature science and technology and space exploration.



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Kuwait’s Economy Faces Continued Challenges Amid Oil Production Cuts and Non-Oil Sector Decline

The oil sector remained constrained by Opec-mandated crude oil production cuts, while the non-oil sector recorded a steeper decline than in the previous quarter

Fri, Jul 12, 2024 4 min

The Preliminary estimates from National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) Economic Research reveal a 4.4% year-on-year decline in Kuwait’s GDP for Q4 2023, slightly improving from Q3’s -5.8% outcome.

The oil sector remained constrained by OPEC-mandated crude oil production cuts, while the non-oil sector recorded a steeper decline than in the previous quarter.

For 2023 as a whole, the non-oil economy contracted for the second consecutive year. Parallel data on the expenditure side of the national accounts showed that investment’s share of GDP stood at a modest 17% of GDP in 2022 (the latest year available). This figure could rise significantly as the new government pursues its diversification and development goals.

Oil GDP Contraction

The figures indicated a 6.4% year-on-year decline in oil GDP in Q4, a slight improvement over Q3. Kuwait maintained crude oil production at 2.55 mbpd, in line with its OPEC+ production cut obligations. For the full year, oil GDP contracted by 4.3%, a marked turnaround from the robust expansion witnessed in 2022, when a tighter oil market prompted Kuwait and its OPEC counterparts to raise production.

However, oil’s positive performance in 2022 largely defied the trend, as oil GDP growth has been negative in seven of the last ten years, fluctuating with OPEC supply policy adjustments in response to the post-US shale landscape of ample supply and downward oil price pressures. Kuwait’s crude oil production in 2023 (2.59 mbpd) is about 10% lower than in 2014 (2.87 mbpd).

Looking ahead, oil GDP growth is expected to rise from Q4 2024 after OPEC+ announced in June that members’ 2024 voluntary production cuts, including Kuwait’s 135 kbpd, will be gradually unwound over the course of a year starting in October. “We estimate Kuwait’s oil GDP will rise by 0.9% q/q in Q4 and by 4.0% y/y in 2025 if this production is restored fully as planned, though Opec has left open the possibility that it could pause and even reverse these supply gains if market conditions dictate,” NBK said.

Non-Oil Sector

Meanwhile, GDP in the non-oil sector remained in contraction territory at -2.3% year-on-year in Q4 2023, extending a sequence that has lasted for five consecutive quarters. For 2023 as a whole, non-oil activity fell by 2.9%, marking a second consecutive annual decline following 2022’s fall of 0.1% (downwardly revised from +0.3%). This is the weakest reading in the available series and well below the 2011-2019 average of +3.3% per year.

Performance at the sectoral level in 2023 was led by transportation & storage (+20%), hotels & restaurants (+17.4%), and household employment (+13.1%). The latter pointed to burgeoning demand for domestic labor, while the increase in hospitality sector output, for the second consecutive year, signifies strong consumption and efforts to develop and expand local dining and tourism capacity.

However, larger sectors such as manufacturing (-17% year-on-year), trade (-2.8%), and other services & real estate (-2%) performed markedly worse in 2023 compared to 2022.

The Central Statistical Bureau (CSB) also published GDP data characterized by expenditure up until 2022, offering a different perspective on Kuwait’s economy. In 2020, amidst the pandemic, private consumption (-11%) and total investment (-36%) fell sharply, contributing to that year’s near-5% decline in real GDP.

Private and government consumption led the recovery in 2021, while investment saw little change (+1.8%). Exports drove the continued recovery in 2022, a year when Kuwait’s oil output and exports recorded double-digit increases amid a tight market impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Cuts to Capex

Investment surged 44% in 2022 from a low, Covid-affected base, but in real terms, it remained below pre-Covid levels. This trend was reflected in successive government budget cuts to capex, which fell from a peak of KD3.8 billion ($12.43 billion) in FY19/20 to KD2.5 billion in FY23/24.

This trend reinforces what other figures suggest about Kuwait’s post-Covid economic recovery, largely driven by consumer spending and oil exports. Gross investment (public and private), at 17% of GDP in 2022, will need to increase substantially if the government is to succeed in its reform and economic diversification goals.

The release confirms previous indications that Kuwait’s economy recovered to its pre-pandemic size more quickly than originally thought. Nominal GDP reached KD42.9 billion ($143 billion) in 2021 from KD33.6 billion in 2020, increasing by 28% year-on-year, largely due to surging oil prices which propelled oil GDP up by more than 67%. However, GDP declined to KD50.3 billion (-9.8%) in 2023, reflecting changes in oil GDP. Consequently, per capita income dropped to $33.7k in 2023, partly due to this fall and an increase in population (+2.3% year-on-year according to PACI data).

External Shocks

The modest growth in the non-oil economy since the Covid-19 pandemic, averaging +0.8% per year compared to a pre-pandemic average of 3.3% (2010-2019), highlights a sector performing well below its potential in recent years. This underperformance reflects a succession of challenging external shocks, including the pandemic, oil price volatility, and aggressive global central bank monetary tightening. Despite traditionally high levels of government spending, non-oil performance in Kuwait has lagged behind some of its GCC peers.

To close the performance gap with neighboring Gulf economies, changes in the composition of public spending, emphasizing capital investment, will be necessary. The private sector‘s role must be significantly enhanced, with the government providing regulatory tools, incentives, and initial capital to help businesses expand and deepen the non-oil base, driving long-term productivity gains. The new government has stated its intention to prioritize structural fiscal and economic reforms and accelerate the implementation of development plan projects.

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