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I am sorry that I was presumptious about Paul and the BHI.
>To be fair, many dealers do an excellent job at this [documentation],
>but it can always improve.
Absolutely, I have to deal with this issue constantly and can state that
dealers tend to try their hardest to supply as much information as
possible.....when pressed. One problem I have come across is the
dealer/collector conflict where the collector will not provide the
information to the dealer for fear that the dealer will then collect for
Paul, after a rather crude generalisation by me, goes on to say:
>So Neil, what you are saying is that the loss of over 99% of
>specimens to science is acceptable to you, while this fraction of one
>percent is not.
Yes, it is more acceptable to me than theft. I do not like to see
specimens destroyed by natural or unnatural causes and do my best
to save as much as possible. I also encourage dealers and amateur
collectors in this country (Scotland) to collect from particular areas. I
do not encourage collecting from special sites requiring protection
against over-collecting and that are not prone to erosive forces or
weathering. In Scotland there is no law of trespass, nor is there any
legislation covering fossils. The only provision is under damage to
property. I believe that, and know of, sites of special scientific
interest (SSSI) that need to be protected from collecting and erosion. I
also encourage collecting from SSSI's where erosion is destroying
specimens, but I also encourage the collector to seek permission
from the landowners and the proper government body (in my case
this is the Scottish Natural Heritage). I also support their application
in many cases and have a group of collectors and dealers who
regularly go to such sites.
Not being in the US the House Bill vs Baucus does not concern me
directly, but I do follow with interest....and worry that too much
legislation can also be a bad thing.
As for your philosophies 1-4....I do not subscribe to any of these and
hope that I have been able to make this clear.
On the Cope-Marsh tradition of smashing fossils so the other guy
can't get their hands on them, I think that I mentioned one case of this
in Scotland where rare Devonian fish were smashed because the
dealer who was collecting couldn't carry them all, and so destroyed
the surplus so that no-one else could have them.
I don't know what museums are like in the US with regards to
collecting policies. The Hunterian Museum is lucky, here in Scotland,
to have a collecting policy because we are a university museum and
have an obligation to look after new research material. As a result,
we have over 2million specimens and a lack of space to keep them.
Most museums in the UK, as far as I am aware, either have no
collecting policy or a restricted collecting policy....thus many
specimens are lost because the museums cannot handle the number
of specimens collected. One big problem is in assessing what is,
and what isn't, a scientifically important specimen...we cannot be
experts in all fields of palaeontology...and I'm sure many specimens
also get lost that way too.
I don't believe, certainly in this country, that 99% of specimens are
lost by erosion. I think that a lot are lost by collecting and also
promoting erosion by collecting. This might seem to be in
contradiction to what I have said earlier in this note, but I think that
people try to collect what they feel (subjectively) are important
specimens and leave a large number of others to erode and weather.
I hear this complaint constantly from palaeobotanists who see
arthropod collectors, brachiopod collectors, dinosaur collectors,
collecting what interests them and leaving the plants to rot.
I don't believe there is an ultimate solution to all these problems. We
can only do our bestest.
Curator of Palaeontology
University of Glasgow
Some large dinosaurs had three horns and were called
triceps, others had two horns and were called biceps.
(Geological Howlers - ed. WDI Rolfe)