Fossils are precious " a window into times and animals that roamed the Earth long before the first of our bipedal kind walked on it. Some people are of the idea that fossils (and pets, too, perhaps) are for sale, and the question is only a matter of "how much?"
One such brave soul, a fossil hunter, attempted to sell a young Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on eBay earlier this week. With the remains priced at $2.95 million, the man clearly meant business. T rexes are also the business of palaeontologists though, who were, unsurprisingly, pretty pissed that they weren't invited to study it first.
The owner defended his sale of the fossil, arguing that the fossil could very well still be studied after his hustle went through. Hunting for billionaires with an appetite for exotic skeletons wasn't his forte, so he turned to eBay hoping they'd reach him instead.
He was certain that a wealthy bidder from Europe or Asia would emerge, the fossil owner Alan Detrich told the New York Times. "Putting it on eBay is one way to do it."
Detrich had handed the fossil over to the University of Kansas Natural History Museum to exhibit on an extended load. Palaeontologists from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) wrote a strongly-worded letter in response to the sale, calling out the fossil hunter for using the exhibition and the specimen's scientific importance as bait, and part of his "advertising strategy."
"These events undermine the scientific process for studying past life as well as the prospect for future generations to share the natural heritage of our planet," the letter said.
According to SVP experts, only the casts and replicas are allowed to be traded, and not the fossils themselves. Unlike art or products of human creativity, fossils are part of a worldwide effort to understand Earth's fragmented past and the history of life. Detrich, in their view, is making that needlessly difficult.
The listing, which has now been unlisted from eBay, read like a second-hand car sale:
Most Likely the Only BABY T-Rex in the World! It has a 15-FOOT long Body and a 21³ SKULL with Serrated Teeth! This Rex was very a very dangerous meat eater. It's a RARE opportunity indeed to ever see a baby REX, if they did not grow quickly they could not catch prey and would die. Histology shows the specimen to be approximately 4 years old upon death. Reconstruction of the skull has been done by Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology (from Natural History Museum in FL).
Many of the bones are waiting to be identified, but everyday more and more are being tagged.
The T-REX' has only 12 teeth in Lower jaw and several other "claimed to be young T-Rex" are actually Nano's. This is the case even at the Museum in L.A. Now, many Paleo's think this maybe The "ONLY" T-REX Youth in the World!"
Detrich received an email from Dr Krishtalka, one of the senior palaeontologists at SVP, about his eBay sale. "He said, 'What are you doing?'" Detrich told the Guardian. "Well, I own this thing...It is mine. I can do whatever I want," he reportedly added.
None of the 2000+ billionaires have bid on his fossil yet. But he's hopeful.