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Rich People Are Standing Between Kids and Dinosaurs

The new fossil could sell for over $1 million, but what's that mean for scientists?


With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hitting theatres later this month, toy makers and savvy parents are bracing for dinosaur fever. But events at a bone auction in Paris, where a 154-million-year-old fossil is being sold to the highest bidder, are making it distressingly clear that future generations of kids may never get a chance to see newly uncovered fossils and species. As museums struggle to raise funds and wealthy people get into dinosaur collecting, more discoveries are winding up in private collections. This is concerning for parents eager to get kids excited about science and very bad for science. Just listen to the paleontologists tell it. 

“Fossil specimens that are sold into private hands are lost to science,” David Polly, the president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology told Nature. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is asking the auction house in question to cancel the sale because the bones are important to a “collective natural heritage.” Still, the sale is legal and will likely go on as planned.

“Any auction likely to generate a high market value is of concern, because science generally operates on a low budget,” Polly explained. “We don’t have money to pay people to collect fossils or to buy them on the open market.”

It’s sad because the love of dinosaurs has never diminished, especially for kids. Studies have found that while the most popular “interest.” is transportation vehicles (cars, planes, trains, etc.) the number two interest is, you guessed it, dinosaurs.

“I think for many of these children, that’s their first taste of mastery, of being an expert in something and having command of something their parent or coach or doctor doesn’t know,”  Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, director of Rowan University’s Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, recently told The Cut. “It makes them feel powerful. Their parent may be able to name three or four dinosaurs and the kid can name 20, and the kid seems like a real authority.”

As it stands right now, the US remains one of the only countries in which dinosaur bones can be found, that doesn’t also require that they are turned over to proper scientific authorities. In the US, if it’s found on your property, then it’s yours. While that sounds nice, it could also mean that what’s found may never light a fire inside of another person, which is a tragedy, especially when that person is a child.