I’ve been wanting to incorporate dinosaurs into this final project, and with the help of Dr. Krygier I think I might manage it! It would be interesting to talk about fossil trade, collection, distribution, and restrictions. A few interesting tidbits pertaining to this topic:
- Some countries, like Mongolia or China, cannot export fossils, which hampers scientific research and prevents the public from seeing particular specimens
- It is illegal to take fossils and ancient artifacts out of some places (i.e. parks, preserves, etc.) but not illegal in other places; also, it can be illegal to take some things out, but not others. For example, where I worked in Wyoming we weren’t supposed to take out any objects that had been handled or used by the prehistoric peoples that had lived there, but we were allowed to collect marine fossils and keep them.
- Some fossils have an incredible price tag. The Thermopolis specimen of the Archaeopteryx where I worked is valued in the millions, and Sue, the largest, most complete T-Rex ever found, was bought at auction for over 7 million dollars. Casts of the T-Rex Stan (the second largest, most complete T-Rex) sold for around $100,000.
- Disputes over ownership of fossils and artifacts is a big deal. People really get their knickers in a wad about it.
Potential questions to ask/points to discuss:
- Should a fossil/artifact belong to whoever found it? Or should it belong to whoever owns the land? What if no one officially owns that land where the specimen was found?
- Should specimens stay in the country where they were found? If a fossil is of scientific value, should it be a rule that it can be transported to different countries for study?
- Should private collection of fossils and artifacts be banned? This also brings into question the relative rarity and value of fossils. There are only 11 Archaeopteryx specimens in the entire world, so they are of course going to be much more valuable than, say, a trilobite. But who defines the rarity and value? I would think value would be defined by numbers of specimens already discovered, and the preservation quality of the fossil.
- Is it too extreme to ban someone from taking anything out of a national park? Some things it makes sense to leave–for example, petroglyphs (although people have defaced/removed some in Wyoming)–but what about things that are very common?
- I went on a day trip to Indiana for my paleontology class, and the outcrops we visited were completely covered in fossils. Our professor told us that these outcrops were world famous, and that it was okay to take specimens as long as we weren’t removing truckloads of fossils. But won’t the fossil quantities eventually deplete if people continue coming to the area and collecting them? The fossils are abundant now, but what about in the future? On the other hand, is it fair to tell people that they can’t take anything away when so many fossils are in that area?
It might be good to just have a discussion/thoughtful remediation on the interactions between fossils and laws. Anyway, this seems like a promising project that plays into my interests. We will see!
A link to a relevant website here.