Friday, December 3, 2021

Sale of dinosaur fossils

 National Geographic has the story:

The controversial sale of 'Big John,' the world's largest Triceratops. The fossil's $7.7-million sale has some experts worried that ancient bones' rising prices will put more scientifically valuable fossils out of reach.  BYMICHAEL GRESHKO

"The founder of a South Dakotan firm called PaleoAdventures, which digs up fossils for commercial sale, Stein nicknamed the fossil “Big John” after the owner of the ranch where he found it. For six years, he held on to the Triceratops in hopes that a U.S. museum would purchase it—but none came forward. Then, in 2020, he sold the fossil to an Italian firm that prepared it for auction. With much fanfare and a jaw-dropping sale price of $7.7 million (6.65 million euros) to an anonymous buyer last month, Big John became a big deal—and added fuel to an ongoing, thorny debate among scientists, auctioneers, commercial paleontologists, and private landowners.


"Big John is one of more than 100 known fossils of Triceratops, one of the most common dinosaurs found in western North America’s Hell Creek Formation, which snakes through parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

"In the United States, only researchers with government permits can collect fossils on the millions of acres of federal lands, and these remains must be held in the public trust at institutions such as museums. However, fossils found on private land—including Big John—belong to the landowner and can be bought and sold legally.

"The U.S. is one of only a few countries that allows this sort of trade. In Alberta, Canada, for instance, fossils found in that province can’t be exported according to a 1970s law that designates fossils as part of Alberta’s natural heritage—a legal response to decades of foreign museums removing exquisite dinosaur fossils from the province. Other fossil-rich countries, such as Brazil, China, and Mongolia, have similar laws, though black markets dealing in fossils from these countries persist.

"Academic paleontologists have a range of views on the legal fossil trade, from begrudging acceptance to steadfast opposition. University of Calgary paleontologist Jessica Theodor, president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), which represents paleontologists around the world, says she’s worried that auctions turn fossils into luxury collectibles and further legitimize the global fossil trade."

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