Friday, September 18, 2009

Tiny T. Rex Fossil, China, Paleontology, and International Law

"Tiny T. rex fossil discovery startles scientists"
CNN (September 17, 2009)

"A pint-sized version of the Tyrannosaurus rex, with similarly powerful legs, razor-sharp teeth and tiny arms, roamed China some 125 million years ago, said scientists who remain startled by the discovery.

"The predator, nicknamed Raptorex, lived about 60 million years before the T. rex and was slightly larger than the human male, scientists said.

"The findings, to be released Friday in the journal Science, are based on fossilized remains discovered in lake beds in northeastern China. They show a dinosaur with many of the specialized physical features of Tyrannosaurus rex at a fraction of its size...."

The fossil is significant on a couple of points.


It's not often that paleontologists get surprised by a dinosaur fossil these days. 'Raptorex' did just that.

"...'The most interesting and important thing about this new fossil is that It is completely unexpected,' said Stephen Brusatte, co-author of the article, in a conference call with reporters...."

Data that confirms what's known or surmised is useful - Data that doesn't is where new discoveries come from.

Smuggled Bones

'Raptorex' was found in China. Then the bones were smuggled out, and eventually bought by a collector in Massachusetts. He turned them over to researchers.

The bad news is that the fossil was smuggled out of China.

The good news is that it didn't disappear into what's politely called a 'private collection' somewhere.

The better news is that the fossil will be returned to China.

I think western civilization is catching on that laws apply to everybody - or should. But that's a whole different topic.

More about fossils and China:

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