By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The case of the black market dinosaur fossil may help make the world safer for scientists.
The guilty plea last week to fossil smuggling (see related story) is seen as significant by Ted Daeschler (below right), paleontologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, for a number of reasons.
One, he says, it shows that Mongolia, source of most of the fossils, means business in preserving cultural heritage pieces; and two, it bolsters efforts against smuggling, which removes valuable fossils into private collections.
“There are fossils that are very common and some of those available on the commercial market are not a problem at all, but there does have to be someone who is making that evaluation, who is saying this is a very important, unique fossil,” he explains. “This should remain in the public realm. It should be in a museum where it can be looked at.”
But eventually returned to its country of origin, he adds.
Daeschler says even his breakthrough, 370-million-year-old fish fossil, Tiktaalik, belongs to Canada, where it was found.