Paleontologists were outraged after an eBay user had put an infant Tyrannosaurus rex fossil for sale for an asking price of $2.95 million.
The Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology blasted Montana native Alan Detrich for placing the baby T. rex on eBay to make a few millions of dollars.
"Most Likely the Only BABY T-Rex in the World! It has a 15 FOOT long Body and a 21" SKULL with Serrated Teeth!" the listing on the online marketplace read.
SVP also accused the University of Kansas, where the fossil was on display, of helping Detrich inflate the price of the specimen. The school allegedly served as a shop window where professional buyers could view the fossil themselves.
Baby T. Rex Fossil on eBay
The 68-million-year-old T. rex fossil was discovered on Detrich's Montana property in 2013. Detrich, a professional fossil hunter himself, lent the dinosaur specimen to KU's Natural History Museum in 2017. The fossil was said to be still on display at KU when Detrich suddenly decided to put it on sale on eBay.
KU denied having any involvement in Detrich's plan to sell the T. rex fossil. Leonard Krishtalka, director of the school's museum, pointed out that the dinosaur exhibit has now been discontinued, and the specimen has been returned to Detrich.
The University of Kansas has asked to remove any mention of association between the school and the professional fossil hunter from the eBay listing.
Importance In History
Scientists believe the infant T. rex fossil may hold the key to settle a long-standing debate in palaeontological circles. Some researchers argue whether small specimens of Tyrannosaurs found in North American are babies or they are in fact a different classification of dinosaurs altogether known as Nanotyrannus.
With the baby T. rex fossil now up for auction on eBay, many observers doubt if any analysis of the dinosaur remains could ever be done, especially if it ends up in a private collection of professional buyers.
Members of the SVP recently released an open letter, expressing disappointment that the specimen was placed on display at an exhibit before it could have been studied.
They said the action likely enhanced the T. rex fossil's commercial value by drawing the interest of thousands of visitors to the KU museum.
They added that museums do not always have enough budget to buy such increasingly expensive dinosaur specimens.
Dinosaur Fossils For Sale
In 2013, the Guardian published an article discussing fossils for sale. The issue came about after specimens of Mongolian tyrannosaurs had been put on sale at auctions in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The newspaper featured the views of paleontologist David Hone and professional fossil preparator Mark Graham. While both Hone and Graham agreed that collecting dinosaur fossils illegally was reprehensible, they differed when it came to the issue of keeping specimens in museums.
Hone stressed that fossils hold scientific and cultural importance, which is why they should be placed under the care of museums. However, Graham countered that scientific analyses of specimens do not require the items to be kept by such institutions in perpetuity.
He also dismissed the idea of the cultural importance of fossils since many of these creatures lived at a time long before humans existed. For materials to have a legitimate cultural attachment, it should have been worked by man, and not fossils, Graham said.