By Brendan

Tarbosaurus skeleton (Source:

There is an interesting legal stoush happening in the United States at the moment over plans to auction a nearly complete fossil skeleton of Tarbosaurus

bataar (a type of tyrannosaur) in the New York, however what makes it interesting is that this species has only ever been found in Mongolia and laws exist there that prohibit the exportation of fossils. On May 20 the skeleton was sold for $1.1 million; however no money will change hands before a court decides if the skeleton is the property of Mongolia. The president of Mongolia has been vocal in calling for the return of the skeleton and is being supported by palaeontologists from Mongolia and the United States.

The illegal removal of fossils and other geologic material from significant sites or out of countries is not a new phenomenon, though it is a complex issue. A quick search today located numerous websites selling fossils and meteorites however must are genuine operators who sell what is legal. There is obviously a market for these specimens; however once they are bought by a collector they are unlikely to be made available to the scientific community for research purposes, nor displayed to the public in museums. There is also the trend of removing fossils from poor countries in Asia, Africa and South America into the developed world as this is where the collectors are located.

As a member of the scientific community I believe that valuable specimens, such as the tarbosaurus skeleton should remain the property of the country where they are unearthed and be made available for use by the community, whether directly in research or as education tools in museums.