Statement regarding the sale of vertebrate fossils online

Theropod trackway, Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite, Wyoming, photo credit: Thomas Holtz

Statement regarding the sale of vertebrate fossils online

The following motion was passed unanimously by the Executive Committee of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology on October 20,1999:

“The recent auction of vertebrate fossils on, sponsored by the Discovery Channel, has raised significant issues for members of the Society. According to the ethics by-law of the society, “The barter, sale, or purchase of scientifically significant vertebrate fossils is not condoned, unless it brings them into or keeps them within a public trust.” We are deeply concerned by the on-line, auction sale of vertebrate fossils, as the nature of the process cannot assure that scientifically significant fossils are deposited into not-for-profit scientific and educational institutions.

The Executive Committee of the Society will actively pursue dialogue with the senior officers of Discovery Communications Inc., to inform them of the ramifications of vertebrate fossil sales, with regard to issues of theft of specimens from public and private sources, restrictions in access to important specimens by students and professional scientists, and related issues.

We hope this dialogue will result in joint efforts by Discovery and SVP members to protect vertebrate fossils so as to derive the maximum scientific and educational benefits from them, and to collaborate on public education efforts.”

At the SVP Annual Business Meeting, October 21, 1999, Denver, Colorado, a motion was proposed from the floor that the membership vote to formally demonstrate support for this Executive Committee action. The motion of support was approved by all present (approximately 200 members), with one dissenting vote.