[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Palaeosocialism?



In response to Roger A. Stephenson:

My post *did not* judge the landowners who sell the fossils, but
professional, semi-professional, and amateur palaeontologists whose actions
directly, or indirectly, result in encouraging landowners to sell specimens
rather than donate them to a public institution, actions that place an
expectation in the public mind that vertebrate fossils (or any fossils) =
profit.

There is little enough money available for palaeontological research without
museums having to pay landowners for fossils they might have donated, if not
for big cash precedents and media coverage thereof, and if not for the
practices of profit-oriented corporations masquerading as scientific
organizations. Most institutions, whether universities or museums, simply do
not have the sort of money that vertebrate fossils may command.

While I was at the old Red Mountain Museum (now Discovery 2000) in
Birmingham, we lost a number of *extremely* important Campanian marine
vertebrates because Geological Enterprises in Oklahoma had begun courting
landowners and amateur collectors in central Alabama. Although most of our
research effort at the time was directed toward an examination of fossil
reptiles from these beds, we could not even begin to compete with the
thousands of dollars GE was offering. As a result, we lost a number of
important mosasaurs (including the best -Halisaurus sternbergi- yet recovered
and a number of excellent -Clidastes-) and the only (to my knowledge)
chelosphargine turtle hatchling. The specimens were eventually sold to
private collectors and are probably lost to science forever. 

Fortunately, the *most* landowners we were working with did not seek to sell
specimens. 

And while my criticism was not directed at landowners, I should add that
believing that vertebrate fossils are a natural resource that must be
protected by federal legislation, even when those fossils are found on
private lands, makes me no more a socialist than my conviction that
landowners should be prevented from hunting endangered species that happen to
be living on their property. Or that federal air and water pollution
regulation apply to their land. And so on. And so forth.

Caitlin R. Kiernan