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[dinosaur] A response to Ben's Personal Comments

A couple of points:

First, I may be wrong, but Ben's comments appear to be in response to some complaint he may have gotten regarding commercial fossils. It is absurd for anyone to complain to him about anything. Ben provides us all a great service which, must take hours of his time, in order to keep the community updated on events and new research. I could be wrong but I believe he does this in order to spread knowledge, quite a noble concept.

Second, The vilification of commercial paleontology is stupid, short sighted and should be stopped!!!!
Commercial paleo people are not some reincarnation of the Devil. They are people that have chosen to make a  living, that involves their love of fossils, in a different manner. The constant attacks from SVP leadership only drives us further apart. Like it or not, commercial paleo is here to stay. I am a person with almost no formal education in paleo and spent years trying to get involved with scientific paleo only to be insulted, robbed, shunned by some of you. I've gone over to "the dark side" and find an open honest environment of people that love fossils, want to learn about and research them and are very willing to share knowledge and discovery with the scientific community. A small portion of the scientific community realizes the value we have to offer, however most are brainwashed by the constant innuendo and bad press put out by SVP leadership. One of you even, how shall I say it, dreamed about violence against us, posting the comment on Facebook earlier this year, "May the last Commercial Paleontologist be hanged with the guts of the last Creationist".

I think SVP is really the "Dark side" here. Most museum collections are built on a foundation provided by commercial paleo. It is hypocritical to complain and attack commercial people when most of you make your living because fossils that were found by our side of the equation. Personally, I've donated fossils to 7 or 8 different institutions and many Commpaleo people have done the same.

Many commercial people were crushed to learn of the theft of a scientifically valuable fossil that occurred last week at the Denver Fossil Show. A complete Ptychodus shark, the only one ever found, was stolen for the trailer it sat in. It was found by a commercial paleo person who sold it the another CP person who spent many thousands of dollars in prep work and was about to deliver it to a university for study. He had reserved the specimen to be sold only to an institution because he knew the scientific value. He has been waiting 2 years for them to raise the funds to purchase it. He, like many of us, was not out for "the quick buck". We were not upset over the loss of money but of the loss of the specimen.

All of us CommPaleo people have stories of watching fossils on public lands erode away because no one collected them. I sometimes collect on land bordering BLM land and have looked over the fence and seen this myself. I was also at a public land site and was told by a BLM agent about how they were looking to "get" a local college professor because he brought his students out to a site as part of a geology course and they collected a few shark teeth from the top of a hill. I know the site well and know that any teeth collected at the top, never make it to the bottom without being destroyed by weathering. He told me that "he was saving the teeth for future generations". I believe that is a classic SVP line. I've also had a professional tell me that nobody should be allowed to own a fossil except institutions. At the time we were talking about  individual fossil shark teeth, probably the most common vert fossil in the world and most of which have almost no scientific value.

I know your side has horror stories also and I don't take them lightly but surely a civil, cooperative environment would be better that what we have today. Think about it.

I would be pleased if one of you would repost my comments to whatever Facebook page you all hang out on.

Tom Caggiano
Berthoud, CO

In a message dated 9/15/2019 3:27:25 PM Mountain Standard Time, bcreisler@gmail.com writes:

Ben Creisler


Also, I have posted news stories and published papers that are based on privately owned fossils under scientific study, provided the fossils are not currently being put up for commercial sale. This is my understanding of the DML restriction on mentioning the commercial sale of fossils.

My intent is NOT to encourage or promote private ownership of dinosaur and other fossil specimens, only to pass on information about dinosaur research, even if there is scholarly controversy involved. I think such privately owned fossils can be newsworthy despite the controversies, which I try to mention.

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology has a strict policy about fossils that are not curated at recognized institutions (museums, universities, colleges, etc.) that make them available to researchers on a permanent basis.  Fossil specimens that are not properly curated should not be used or cited in formal papers published by the SVP.  Some people go even further and won't study fossils that have not been carefully documented, studied in context, and excavated on site according to modern professional and scholarly standards.

Many museums, institutions,  and researchers have different attitudes and policies about privately owned or commercially sold fossils. The Smithsonian, ROM, Field Museum, etc., buy specimens from commercial fossil dealers and private owners (even if the field documentation is not perfect). The fossils then are curated for researchers.  

However, some museums or other institutions also will temporarily or semi-permanently host privately owned fossils that do not belong to permanently curated collections open to all and so have no formal specimen designations. The fossils nevertheless have been studied and may be described in scientific publications.

Privately owned Archaeopteryx described in PeerJ

Recent examples include the Tyrannosaurus specimen Tristan (owned by a Danish businessman) at the Berlin Museum of Natural History and the Allosaurus specimen called Arkhane, allegedly a different species, currently at the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences (private owner not disclosed, but bought at a recent auction in France), both of which have been studied at the museums.

Most recently, a privately owned Tyrannosaurus specimen nicknamed "Victoria" (after the city in Canada where the fossil bones were prepared by a commercial company) is on tour, starting with a science center in Arizona. According to news reports, the specimen has also been studied by paleontologists and will get a published description at some point.

I have posted items about these fossils on the DML but also have mentioned the ownership issues. And again, to the best of my knowledge, these fossil are not being offered for sale commercially.

(I have avoided mentioning a number of dinosaur fossils in the news that are currently being offered for sale or auction.)