Tarbosaurus bataar Sold At Auction Likely to be Returned to Mongolia

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Tarbosaurus Dinosaur Skeleton Smuggled into America A spectacular mounted skeleton of an extinct Tarbosaurus which was believed to have been smuggled into the United States so that it could be sold at auction is likely to be returned to Mongolia, the country from which the fossils were first excavated.
The federal authorities supported by United States customs officials seized the large fossil specimen the centrepiece of a specialist auction that was being held in New York.
Over the last three years or so there have been a number of fossil and other ancient artefacts themed auctions within America, Paris and London.
Dinosaur fossils, especially fully prepared and mounted specimens can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Auction Lot Seized by Officials The fossil exhibit consists of a Theropod dinosaur known as Tarbosaurus (Tarbosaurus bataar).
The auction took place at Heritage Auctions in New York on Sunday May 20th of this year, despite a number of palaeontologists and other lobby groups attempting to block the sale.
The lot was sold for approximately £630,000 GBP (over $1 million USD), a little more than the estimated value of the lot that had been established before the auction commenced.
The skeleton, which represents a sub-adult dinosaur and is believed to be around seventy-five percent complete was purchased by an unnamed individual.
Tarbosaurus "Alarming Reptile" from Mongolia Tarbosaurus is a member of the Tyrannosaurid dinosaur family.
It was a large, apex predator that roamed Mongolia around seventy million years ago in the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage).
First named and described back in 1955 by the Russian palaeontologist Evgeny Aleksandrovich Maleev.
Tarbosaurus is closely related to the most famous dinosaur of all - Tyrannosaurus rex.
Maleev did not that the Mongolian dinosaur was very similar to the North American T.
rex,
they shared a number of common anatomical features (autopomorphies).
For a time, this dinosaur was known as Tyrannosaurus bataar, but in the mid 1960s following a review of the fossil material from both Tyrannosaurid species, the name Tarbosaurus was established for this genus.
The name Tarbosaurus means "alarming reptile" and with a maximum length in excess of twelve metres and weighing perhaps as much as five tonnes, this Theropod dinosaur was a formidable predator.
Sold at Auction in New York for Over $1 million For the New York auction, the mounted specimen was described as Tyrannosaurus bataar.
Cynics might state that this term was used to help make the lot more valuable and to fetch a higher prices as Tyrannosaurus would have had a wider commercial appeal than the relatively less known Tarbosaurus.
However, the specimen, if it did come from Mongolia would pose a problem for the seller as it has been illegal to remove from Mongolia fossils or any other artefacts of "cultural significance" for more than fifty years.
This law had been in place even before the formal scientific description and review of the fossil material associated with of Tarbosaurus.
A number of interested parties tried to intervene, either to stop the auction or to have the lot impounded until the provenance of the fossil could be established.
The Mongolian President, Elbegdorj Tsakhia became involved, insisting that this fossil was the property of the Mongolian people and that it had been illegally smuggled out of his country.
With the fossil material seized and the person who put forward the winning bid at the auction unable to claim their purchase, the fossil material was held in storage at a secret location, under the supervision of U.
S.
customs officials and a team of palaeontologist who had been brought in to ensure the fossils could be stored without being damaged.
Believed to Have Been Smuggled out of Mongolia The Tarbosaurus exhibit was examined by leading palaeontologists after the auction, when the lot had been seized by federal agents.
They declared that the fossil material had, most likely, originated in Mongolia and therefore the fossils had been obtained illegally.
The person responsible for putting the original lot up for auction had tried to claim back the Tarbosaurus skeleton in October.
It was claimed that he imported a set of jumbled bones and it was his skill at preparing the fossils and making them into a single specimen that had added the value to the dinosaur exhibit.
Federal officials do not have validated figures to demonstrate how widespread fossil smuggling is, or indeed the size of the black market for fossils obtained illegally, but it is believed to be sizeable with dinosaur specimens in particular, being highly sought after.
A number of other dinosaur fossils are believed to have been imported into the United States of America from Mongolia, including fossils of the duck-billed dinosaur Saurolophus and an Oviraptorid (Oviraptor).
The Tarbosaurus specimen may have been just one of a number of illegal transactions concerning dinosaur fossils carried out.
For instance, a feathered dinosaur fossil (Microraptor gui) was sold in the United States, the original fossil material is believed to have been purchased in China and exported out of that country.
China has some of the strictest laws with regards to protection items of "cultural significance to the country", artefacts such as fossils as well as human remains and archaeological discoveries.
Severe Penalties for Dinosaur Fossil Smuggling The smuggling and illegal sale of fossils in the United States can be punished by lengthy prison sentences or in less severe cases large fines.
A number of governments and other national authorities have promised to clamp down on the huge, black market for fossils, especially dinosaur fossils.
Individual specimens, such as this Tarbosaurus can sell for enormous sums of money and although no official figures are available, customs officials state the smuggling and illegal sale of such items is very widespread.
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