Paleontological Curiosities Go on Auction Block in Paris

For sale: a 15,000-year-old Siberian mammoth skeleton.

On Monday, Christie's auction house in Paris, which usually sells fine art and furniture, is hosting an unusual auction of paleontological curiosities, including several prehistoric mammals.

Skeletons of a 10,000-year-old, 13.5-foot-long rhinoceros and a 7.5-foot-high cave bear are also going under the hammer. The skeletons are currently owned by a private collector, but buyers may include museums or artists, said Christie's spokeswoman Capucine Milliot.

The auction is not to all paleontologists' liking. Pascal Tassy, professor at Paris' Natural History Museum, has decried the selling off of specimens that could be useful to science.

"It is a pernicious consequence of the Jurassic Park effect," he said. "In the past, private collectors donated to museums, it was a great time of patronage. Nowadays we make money off anything."

Bidders interested in buying the star specimen — a Siberian mammoth dubbed "The President" — will need at least $199,000 and a lot of floor space. Tusks and all, it's 12.5 feet high and 16 feet long.

A 330-pound meteorite containing semiprecious stones and showing rare traces of its entry into the atmosphere is valued at between $122,000 and $162,000. An unhatched dinosaur egg and a wide collection of fossils — some of them 400 million years old — will also be up for auction.

Among the curiosities is a bezoar, a sort of pearl formed in the stomach of some herbivores, made of a stone or hair covered by a layer of calcium phosphate. Bezoars that reach or exceed the size of an egg become tremendously valuable. This one is valued at $34,000.

The auction is also toasting modernity. For the first time at Christie's in Paris, bidders will be able to remotely bid online. Christie's Live, used for the first time in New York in July 2006, then in London and Amsterdam, allows users to "virtually" attend auctions.