Dinosaur Skeletons Are a Hot Comity — It’s Too Bad Science Can’t Afford Them
Edited June 17th, 2018 -- Corrected typos.
June 4th came and went, and with it, an almost complete dinosaur skeleton to a French art collector.
The beast that lays nine meters long (almost 30 feet), and two-and-a-half meters tall (8.2 feet), went on auction in Paris, France on Monday, June 4th. Some believe it could be the skeleton of a species that has yet to be identified, and it’s about 70% complete. According to Quartz, this skeleton was excavated between 2013 and 2015 in Wyoming, USA.
It sold to the aforementioned art collector for $2.3 million.
The auction was criticized before and after it took place by many scientists. The nonprofit organization Society of Vertebrate Paleontology argued in a letter that “scientifically important vertebrate fossils are part of our collective natural heritage and deserve to be held in public trust”, rather than left in the hands of any private ownership. Why was this point argued?
The fear is that privately auctioned off skeletons can become lost to science — especially those of major discoveries as the Society believes it to be. “…There is no guarantee,” said Voa News, quoting the organization. “That privately held pieces will be open to all scientists for research purposes.”
That being said, Reuters reported that the unnamed buyer of this skeleton plans on lending it to a museum, and that will allow it to be studied by scientists.
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But these kinds of auctions are becoming more and more popular and common according to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, David Polly, the president of the organization, told Nature. In fact, the auction house that sold off this latest skeleton sold a Mammoth and another dinosaur previously, according to the Reuters’ article mentioned early.
The more common these auctions become, and the higher the price margin goes, the less access scientists will have to the Earth’s history. Even if the particular buyer of this skeleton does give scientists access to it, that doesn’t mean that every private buyer will. The auction house also claims that some of the proceeds from this auction will go to two charities working with endangered wildlife, but the Reuters article that reported on that claim doesn’t mention which charities.
The solution to this would be calling off these auctions, or giving more funding to museums and scientists so that they could afford these purchases. Neither of which seem like they’re goals within reach at the moment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM. Find her on Twitter.