A complete family of prehistoric mammoth skeletons will go under the hammer for the first time.
The Ice Age forms are expected to sell for between £250,000 and £400,000 at auction in West Sussex on Tuesday. The collection is open for the public to view on Sunday.
Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst says the collection will be a unique opportunity for a museum to be the first in the world to show a family scene of the ancient, extinct species.
The family of four skeletons includes a one-year-old mammoth, which is only the second known almost complete baby mammoth skeleton in the world.
The group also includes male and female adult skeletons as well as a young female, aged around eight or nine.
They were all found together during building works near Tomsk, Siberia, in 2002. Their relatively small frames indicates they lived in poor conditions and most probably died at the end of the Pleistocene period, around 12,000 to 16,000 years ago, a spokeswoman for Summers Place said.
The history of the mammoth experienced a recent revival in popularity when animated characters appeared in the children’s film Ice Age – so the collection is expected to appeal to museums hoping to entice younger audiences.
Rupert van der Werff, Summers Place’s natural history specialist, said: “The Ice Age is particularly fascinating as it is the most recent example of a large climatic shift.
“The retreat of the ice meant that cave man effectively could stop his nomadic lifestyle and with agriculture modern settled society developed.
It’s the start of civilisation as we know it. Sadly, this resulted in the demise of iconic animals like the woolly mammoth.”
Other highlights at the sale include a rare three-dimensional skeleton of marine reptile the Plesiosaur, from Lyme Regis, Dorset, which is approximately 205 million years old, and could fetch up to £30,000.
Also on sale is a cave bear skeleton from the same period and that of a rare aurochs, an extinct species of large, wild cattle, which are each expected to sell for £15,000 to £20,000.