Big Money threatens dinosaur paleontology

This 20 November 2018 video says about itself:

Dinosaurs For Sale: Jurassic-era skeletons up for auction in Paris

If you’re in the middle of re-decorating your home and looking for some unusual art how do you feel about a pair of dinosaur skeletons? Two Jurassic-era fossils stretching four metres long are up for auction in Paris. And as Sarah Morice reports, their new owner will need deep pockets because each is expected to fetch between half a million and 900-thousand dollars.

Translated from Cor Speksnijder in Dutch daily De Volkskrant, 17 May 2019:

Scientists and museums are very worried, as they rapidly see dinosaur skeletons becoming more expensive because collectors like Leonardo DiCaprio like to give them a nice place at home. Are valuable fossils lost for research – and the public?

Maybe something for the living room? This skull and other bones of a T-rex are for sale on eBay.

Price: 2.95 million dollars (2.6 million euros). “Probably the only BABY T. REX in the world,” the auction site exults about the 68 million-year-old fossil. “It’s a really RARE opportunity to see a baby REX.”

EBay is “honoured” to show “the whole WORLD” the prehistoric carnivore, which presumably has blown its terminal breath as a four-year-old. With promotions in capital letters, the digital auction house does its utmost to convince potential buyers that this is not just any offer.

The opportunity is not for everyone. Scientists don’t like it. They fear that the bones will disappear in the collection of a rich collector and become unreachable for research. “Important fossils such as this young tyrannosaurus are part of our common natural heritage and deserve to stay in the public domain,” writes the international association of paleontologists (Society of Vertebrate Paleontology) in an angry open letter.

This fossil is interesting for science because there is still a lot of arguing about how the growth of the T. rex went, says Anne Schulp, paleontologist at Naturalis in Leiden and professor at Utrecht University. “Is it really a young T. rex or are we talking about a completely different species? It is important to get a definite answer about this and this fossil can contribute to that debate. “…

The fuss about the T. rex baby follows the controversial sale of the almost complete skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur in Paris. Last summer, the Aguttes auction house in the Eiffel Tower sold the 150 million-year-old skeleton for 2.36 million dollars (2 million euros) to an anonymous French collector. It is probably a new species of Allosaurus, a distant predecessor of the T. rex. An urgent appeal from paleontologists not to go ahead with the sale of the almost 9-meter-long skeleton failed. …

The fact that dinosaurs can be worth millions became clear for the first time in the 1990s with the sale of a large, almost complete T. rex called Sue. This 67 million-year-old skeleton, discovered in South Dakota by the American fossil hunter and preparer Peter Larson, came to the natural history museum of Chicago for 8.3 million dollars (7.4 million euros) in 1997.

Shortly after the discovery, Sue became involved in a fierce legal battle over property law and, with contributions from companies and individuals, was ultimately preserved for the public domain. “Even though the skeleton ended up in a public collection thanks to donors, it created a visible precedent: dinosaur skeletons can be bought and sold for extraordinarily large amounts,” said David Polly, until recently president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. “Collectors and traders were impressed.” …

David Polly is known as an avid opponent of the fossil trade. According to him, this is bothering science in various ways. Unlike art museums, museums for natural history do not have large budgets to build up their collection.

Sometimes, the budgets of art museums are also not big enough to prevent works of art from disappearing from public view.

The budgets of the largest museums as well are insufficient to make million dollar purchases, he says. …

In addition, the rising prices make museums the target of thieves, so that they have to spend more on securing their collections.

“If much is dug up for private collectors, then important information about the context can be lost – from what time does the fossil date? In what circumstances did the animal die? This way you destroy a paleontological location.”

2 thoughts on “Big Money threatens dinosaur paleontology

  1. Pingback: First discoveries of dinosaurs, other prehistoric animals | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: The most important paleontological discoveries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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