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2008-12-03 – Mongolia: sparito un dinosauro (Dinosaur fossil poachers)

Sparito un dinosauro individuato da ricercatori del Cleveland Museum of Natural History che lo avevano momentaneamente copeto in attesa di estrarlo dai sedimenti.


Posted by John Mangels/

Dinosaur fossil poachers apparently victimize Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Posted by John Mangels/Plain Dealer Reporter November 30, 2008 06:30AM

Categories: Real Time News
Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, poses with a Triceratops skeleton that is half of a new dinosaur display at the museum. It is assumed that poachers took the Tarbosaurus bataar skeleton that was to face off against Triceratops, so a Tyrannosaurus rex will take its place when the exhibit opens Dec. 20.

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention and walked right by it, Michael Ryan thought.

Was it possible not to notice a cascade of broken dinosaur bones spilling down a hillside in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert? The burly Canadian fossil hunter had been chatting with a student, so maybe he had been distracted.

Ryan retraced his steps. He hiked back down into the ravine he remembered from a visit two years earlier, when he had first spotted the tantalizing bones of Tarbosaurus bataar, an Asian cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex, poking out of the sun-baked earth. Nope. Nothing there.

He double-checked the GPS coordinates. Dead-on. He tried the adjacent gully, on the chance he was off-target. Still nothing.

The bones were gone. Not a shard remained. The dinosaur skeleton Ryan had planned to painstakingly reassemble and feature as a centerpiece at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where he is head of vertebrate paleontology, had vanished, as if swallowed by the desert sands — another victim of fossil poaching.

“It would have been the most significant chunk of Tarbosaurus in North America,” Ryan said wistfully. “It’s sort of the one that got away.”

It’s impossible to say where the 65 million-year-old-plus bones ended up. There’s a thriving international black market for fossils, particularly those from developing countries that lack strict regulations and policing efforts. The Tarbosaurus skeleton may have been sold to a private collector (although it would have required extensive reconstruction). Or it may have been ground to dust for use in traditional Asian medicines.

Wherever the fossil is, its scientific and educational value is lost. Fewer than three dozen Tarbosaurus specimens exist in museums and research labs worldwide — an inadequate sample for researchers trying to learn about the diversity, behavior and lineage of this fearsome killer.

“If you only knew dogs or cats or kangaroos from 24 specimens, you wouldn’t have a very good picture of what the whole animal looked like,” Ryan said.

Dino Day at Cleveland Museum of Natural History

On Saturday, Dec. 20, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History will hold Dino Day to unveil its new Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. The full-size T. rex, a replica of the original fossil in Montana’s Museum of the Rockies, will be posed facing off against the Cleveland museum’s recently acquired Triceratops, the second-largest dinosaur of the Late Cretaceous Period.

The museum will hold several activities from noon to 4 p.m., including dinosaur craft-making, live animal displays at 1 and 3 p.m. featuring “Raptor Show” and “Dinosaur Descendants,” a 1:30 p.m. talk by fossil hunter Darin Croft, and a 2 p.m. T. rex roaring contest.

Activities are free with museum admission. The museum is at 1 Wade Oval Drive in University Circle. For details see

Some differences with T. rex 

Tarbosaurus belonged to the therapod category of dinosaurs, whose upright-walking, mainly meat-eating members included the ancestors of birds. Scientists believe Tarbosaurus probably was from a different ancestral group, or genus, than T. rex, although some have argued they are more closely related — two species of Tyrannosaurus, one evolving in North America and the other in Asia between 70 million and 65 million years ago.

At about 16 feet tall, Tarbosaurus was slightly smaller than T. rex, and its arms were even shorter than T. rex’s tiny ones. Both used their long tails to counterbalance their huge heads. Tarbosaurus’ skull, up to 4 feet in length and filled with daggerlike teeth, was narrower than T. rex’s and had some structural differences.

The display space that a plaster cast of the Tarbosaurus skeleton would have occupied at the Cleveland museum will instead be filled with two recently acquired dinosaur replicas: the ever-popular T. rex, facing off against a spike-skulled Triceratops. The museum bought the skeletons (which are casts, not original fossils) from a reputable Canadian company. The exhibit opens Dec. 20.

It was another T. rex, also purchased legitimately, that demonstrated how lucrative the fossil trade can be. In 1997, the Field Museum in Chicago partnered with McDonald’s and Disney World to buy a fossil nicknamed Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever found. The record-setting $8.4 million auction bid kept the bones in the public and scientific domain, but poachers no doubt took notice.

Not everyone in the poaching trade stands to make handsome profits. In fossil-rich but impoverished regions of China, Mongolia and Africa, some people scavenge for fossils as a means of survival, selling what they find to brokers for a fraction of what the bones might eventually fetch on the black market.

Trying to bridge a cultural divide

Because of cultural differences, lack of education or simply the economics of survival, they don’t take into account the specimens’ scientific value.

“It’s not like these guys are trying to buy a swimming pool or a second car,” Ryan said of the nomadic people of the Gobi. “They see us driving these big fancy trucks and taking the bones away. As rich Europeans and North Americans coming in there, it’s hard to say, ‘Thou shalt not do these things,’ because that’s what it appears we’re doing. They’re unaware that [a fossil legitimately acquired for research] never permanently leaves the country.”

During the several weeks each year that Ryan searches for dinosaur bones in Mongolia, he also speaks to schoolchildren, in hopes of breaking the generational cycle of poaching. He explains their country’s geologic history, its abundant and important fossils and the process of extracting, casting, studying and ultimately returning the specimens.

A young Mongolian paleontologist, Bolortsetseg Minjin, is taking additional steps to increase her country’s appreciation for its past. Last year she founded the nonprofit Institute for Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs in the capital city of Ulan Bator. Its goals are to help train more home-grown paleontologists, house a research lab to clean and preserve fossils and develop a museum to display dinosaur bones and other native artifacts.

Poachers had already been at work on the Tarbosaurus fossil by the time Ryan first came upon it in a national park in 2005. The thieves had hacked off its skull, hands and feet — the most profitable parts — leaving behind its smashed skeletal bones partially embedded in sand and stone. There were backbones, the pelvis with leg bones attached, ribs and teeth. About 60 percent of the fossil remained, plenty for research and display purposes.

Ryan’s crew that year was mostly adventure tourists, untrained dinosaur enthusiasts who pay to take part in science expeditions. They lacked the experience to excavate the Tarbosaurus in the time available, so Ryan reluctantly left the fossil in the ground. He checked on it the following year but again was committed to other work.

That return visit in 2006 may have rekindled the poachers’ curiosity.

“Whatever they can find that’s of interest to them, they’ll take” immediately, Ryan said. “But if you come back and express an interest in something else, they figure you must know more than they do, so they’re going to go back in and see what you’re curious about. I suspect that’s what happened here. Somebody either saw or reported that we spent part of a day reopening an old quarry, and they went back to see what was there.”

By the time Ryan got back to Mongolia with an experienced crew in August 2007, it was too late. “There wasn’t a scrap of bone left,” the scientist said.

Poachers left behind this empty vodka bottle at the Gobi Desert site where they possibly dug up a skeleton of the T. rex-like dinosaur Tarbosaurus bataar.

Signs of crude excavation workThe thieves did leave some clues: An empty bottle of vodka in the hole where the skeleton had been, cigarette butts and dozens of containers of super glue, which poachers pour over the broken bones so they can keep the pieces together.

In the past, Ryan and his colleagues have found crude, hand-made tools — a chisel fashioned from a sharpened engine rod; a hammer made of a rock duct-taped to a stick.

Such implements don’t lend themselves to careful fossil extraction. But there are signs the poachers are growing more sophisticated, trying to copy techniques the scientific crews use. Ryan has seen evidence of makeshift “field jackets,” the protective layers of plaster and burlap that paleontologists encase fossils in for transport. The poachers haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet. “They put one layer of plaster on a 2-ton block [of rock and fossils] and flip it over, and all the bones fall out.”

Catching poachers is difficult even in a country like the United States, which has far more resources and manpower than developing nations. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s top priority is anti-terrorism, but a spokeswoman says it sometimes gets involved in fossil-poaching cases. Last year, ICE agents seized 22 dinosaur eggs from a Los Angeles auction house after they were smuggled from China.

A 2005 National Geographic magazine report on poaching documented that international fossil sales often entailed payoffs to police and customs agents.

But Ryan said Mongolia has recently tightened its export controls. The tougher rules make it more difficult for scientists to temporarily send legitimately collected specimens home for study, meaning Ryan will do more of his research work in Mongolia. But that’s a small price to pay, he said, if it gets more fossils in museums and off the black market.



dicembre 3, 2008 Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, Asia, Commercio illegale, Italiano (riassunto), P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia | , , , , , | Lascia un commento

2008-11-23 – Portogallo: polemiche per la vendita all’asta di un dinosauro (Portugal, Dinosaur tail sale)

Un macchinista di escavatore ha scoperto casualmente resti di un Sauropode e si è rifiutato di cederli ad un museo nazionale, anzi le ha messe all’asta su internet ….


Dinosaur tail sale sparks anger in Portugal

A Portuguese bulldozer driver who is selling a dinosaur fossil he found online has been criticised by experts for refusing to hand the bones over to a museum.

Last Updated: 12:08AM GMT 22 Nov 2008

Gonsalo Ribeiro, who has refused to reveal where exactly in western Portugal he discovered the bones, decided to cash in on his lucky find by offering it up for sale on the internet.

“For sale, dinosaur spine 90 per cent intact,” reads his advertisement, posted in the antiquities section of a website.

“I own an excavation business, and one day when we were out digging, we came across some stones. But when I took a closer look, I noticed they were not stones,” said Mr Ribeiro.

He says that what he thought were stones are a 11.8-foot- long sauropod’s tail.

The archaeological find is between 146 and 152 million years old and of “huge scientific value”, according to palaeontologist Octavio Mateus.

But Mr Ribeiro has refused to hand over his treasure to a museum, claiming “the figures they offer are far off the mark.” He has already turned down an offer of 100,000 euros (£84,000).

Mr Mateus, who works at a museum specialising in the Jurassic period in central-west Portugal, published a note on the website denouncing what he called the “sale of our heritage as if it were a car or a pair of shoes”.

Mr Mateus is calling for his government to introduce a law, like those of Argentina, China and Mongolia, making it illegal to sell on “public heritage”.

novembre 23, 2008 Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, - Sauropodi, Aste, Collezionismo, Commercio illegale, Europa, Italiano (riassunto), P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia | , , , , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

2008-10-11 – Wyoming, USA: uno studente scopre nuovi resti di dinosauro (Dinosaur, Dean Lomax, “Jurassic Park”)

Dinosaur student digs real life Jurassic Park

Published Date:
09 October 2008

A LIFE-LONG dream of digging up dinosaurs came true for a young man whose love of all things prehistoric led him on a life-changing American adventure.
Dinosaur-mad Dean Lomax discovered the bones of a gigantic dinosaur on his very first day of digging at a real-life Jurassic Park in the American desert.

The 18-year-old from Balby jetted out to Wyoming in America’s Mid-west for ten weeks this summer to volunteer at a museum and learn from some of the world’s leading palaeontologists.

While digging for bones he unearthed a part of a Sauropod – an enormous plant-eating dinosaur known for its long neck.

Said Dean: “It was a massive bone and I found it on the very first day. Finding that so quickly was really amazing and made me want to find more and more.”

But not content with just digging, Dean turned his hand to all aspects of palaeontology at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center where he was based.

“I worked in the labs, I moulded and cast bones, I built model dinosaurs and I gave talks to visitors. I also travelled around the mid-west to neighbouring Utah and Montana and worked at centres there,” he said.

And the former Balby Carr Community Sports College student impressed the experts so much with his self-taught knowledge and enthusiasm that he has returned with job offers.

Said Dean: “I met some of the world’s most famous dinosaur experts and I have realised that becoming a palaeontologist is truly what I want to do. I’ve been invited back to continue the work I had been doing except this time, if I go, I’ll be paid for it.

“I’ve also been offered work in France and the experts I met have said they will give me any help I need to make a career in this field.”

Now back in Balby, Dean, who recently completed his A-Levels, plans to spend a few months at home weighing up his options.

“I’ve now earned certificates in everything related to palaeontology and I’m just thinking about what I should do with them all. I had a brilliant time and it was genuinely life-changing.”


ottobre 11, 2008 Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, America Northern, Curiosità, P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia | , , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

2008-10-06 – Speciale televisivo per seguire la preparazione di un teschio di dinosauro (PBS, “Arctic Dinosaurs”, Alaska, Pachyrhinosaurus dinosaur skull excavation


PBS special to follow Dallas scientist’s dinosaur skull excavation

 12:00 AM CDT on Monday, October 6, 2008 By MARK NORRIS / The Dallas Morning News

 Dinosaurs and cold weather would seemingly go together like oil and water.But a Dallas-based paleontologist is working to explain how these creatures could have lived in freezing temperatures – and bringing added visibility to Dallas’ Museum of Nature & Science.

Tony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the museum, will be featured Tuesday on PBS’ NOVA: Arctic Dinosaurs. Crews followed him as he led expeditions to northern Alaska in 2006 and 2007 to unearth 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

The national broadcast, occurring before the second presidential debate, is big publicity for Dr. Fiorillo and the museum.

“It gives us a chance to show what this museum does,” Dr. Fiorillo said.

Nicole Small, chief executive officer of the museum, said the exposure is a “spectacular opportunity for the city of Dallas.”

She said the program, which includes footage in Dallas, highlights the research that goes on out of the public eye.

Dr. Fiorillo, who has a doctorate in vertebrate paleontology, has been with the Fair Park museum since 1995 and began work on the arctic dinosaur project in 1998.

Weather has been the biggest hurdle in Alaska. Mid-June through mid-August is the only time for research in the area, which is well north of the Arctic Circle. But even the short summer season can be instantly slowed by bitterly cold winds.

Film crews who followed Dr. Fiorillo and his team were present for the discovery of the skull of a pachy-rhinosaurus, an herbivore that was a distant cousin of the more familiar triceratops. Its total length was 20 to 25 feet, and its skull is roughly the size of a typical desk.

Dr. Fiorillo found the skull on the ledge of a cliff that sticks out 300 feet. After excavation, the skull was plastered, wrapped in burlap, put in heavy-duty netting and moved from the site by helicopter.

“It’s the most nerve-racking part,” Dr. Fiorillo said.

The specimen made its way to Dallas for cleaning and reconstruction after a series of plane and truck rides.

Ron Tykoski, who has been working at the museum and with Dr. Fiorillo since 2005, is the one who delicately works to remove the parts of the skull.

“Still lots to do and learn,” Dr. Tykoski said. “The skull is slightly damaged.”

The scientists expect to find more answers about what happened to the dinosaurs once the reconstruction is done and analysis can begin. Work on the skull has been going on for two years.

Dr. Fiorillo hopes to have it and other fossils from Alaska exhibited within a few years.

“It should be a display-quality specimen,” he said.

One possibility for an exhibition space includes the facility the museum is set to build on the southern edge of Victory Park. Construction is slated to begin next year, and Ms. Small said publicity from the PBS special can brand the new facility as one where the newest and most current research will be displayed.

“This is a major, major stepping point for us,” she said.



Program description:

TV Program Description
Original PBS Broadcast Date: October 7, 2008

Most people imagine dinosaurs lurking in warm locales with swamps and jungles, dining on vegetation and each other. But a new NOVA documentary reveals that many species also survived and thrived in the harsh environments of the north and south polar regions. This program focuses on two high-stakes expeditions and the paleontologists who push the limits of science to unearth 70 million-year-old fossils buried in the vast Alaskan tundra.

NOVA takes viewers on an exciting Arctic trek as one team of paleontologists attempts a radical “dig” in northern Alaska, using explosives to bore a 60-foot tunnel into the permafrost in search of fossil bones. Both the scientists and the filmmakers face many challenges while on location, including plummeting temperatures and eroding cliffs prone to sudden collapse. Meanwhile, a second team of scientists works high atop a treacherous cliff to unearth a massive skull, all the while battling time, temperature, and voracious mosquitoes.

The hardy scientists shadowed in “Arctic Dinosaurs” persevere because they are driven by a compelling riddle: How did dinosaurs—long believed to be cold-blooded animals—endure the bleak polar environment and navigate in near-total darkness during the long winter months? Did they migrate over hundreds of miles of rough terrain like modern-day herds of caribou in search of food? Or did they enter a dormant state of hibernation, like bears? Could they have been warm-blooded, like birds and mammals? Top researchers from Texas, Australia, and the United Kingdom converge on the freezing tundra to unearth some startling new answers.

The experts featured in the program shed light on dinosaur biology as they carefully craft theories about life cycles, environment, weather, and extinction. NOVA travels with paleontologist Tony Fiorillo to excavation sites on the North Slope of Alaska, to unearth a unique skull from the lip of a cliff that threatens to slide into the Colville River far below. (See The Producer’s Story for filmmaker Chris Schmidt’s behind-the-scenes take on his journey to this site.) Robert Spicer, an expert on prehistoric flora, ingeniously reconstructs the dinosaurs’s environment by studying fossil leaves and suggests that the “veggie” dinosaurs had a plentiful menu of plants to pick from.

More clues come from other scientists. An expert in fossil footprints and trails, Steve Hasiotis, concludes that Alaska was once a warmer, wetter, and lusher environment than previously imagined. And South African researcher Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan examines thin cross-sections of dinosaur bones shipped from Alaska to help determine whether the animals were warm-blooded, which was probably essential for them to have survived the harsh winters.

Finally, the program touches on the ultimate implications of dinosaur survival. Did a catastrophic asteroid impact 65 million years ago wipe out the dinosaurs, as most people now believe, or did more gradual ecological changes play an equally decisive role in their demise? Like a good detective story, “Arctic Dinosaurs” fingers new suspects in its search for answers to the extinction riddle, including massive volcanic eruptions, shifting continents, and a gradual climatic chill—the opposite of today’s global warming. Throughout, the documentary brings the world of arctic dinosaurs vividly to life through compelling computer-generated imagery.

Arctic Dinosaurs

  • The Producer’s Story
  • Watch the Program
  • Video Preview
  • Online live date
  • ottobre 6, 2008 Posted by | - Ceratopsidi, - R. Dinosauri, America Northern, Paleontology / Paleontologia, TV, Video | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

    2008-09-01 – Il cucciolo di dinosauro PLEO sbarca in Italia

    Milano/ A Busto Arsizio arrivano i dinosauri giocattolo che fanno impazzire i bambini
    Mercoledí 01.10.2008 10:12

    di Marina Galatioto



    A Busto Arsizio sono arrivati i dinosauri! Jurassuc Park non è più solo un sogno, o forse meglio dire, un incubo! Dall’America arriva Pleo, sofisticato cucciolo di dinosauro, e sbarca alla Cartolibreria Boragno, in centro.
    È lungo una cinquantina di centimetri e pesa quasi un chilo e mezzo, oltre a muoversi e fare i versi come un vero e proprio dinosauro, impara e si evolve! Ascolta i suoni, riconosce le voci e si fa fare le coccole e i grattini. È intelligente e dotato di una piccola telecamera posizionata sul musetto ed un sistema di sensori epidermici. Le articolazioni sono flessibili e ha quattordici servomotori che gli consentono movimenti fluidi e realistici. Insomma un animaletto intelligente. Di buono ha che non cresce, non sporca e mangia solo la sua foglia. Ideale per tutti i bambini che vogliono un cucciolo perché con lui si può veramente interagire.

    Pleo, creato oltreoceano, è in grado di apprendere e più sta sveglio, perché se lo coccoli si addormenta, più registra i suoni e ciò che avviene attorno a lui, e con il tempo arricchisce le sue funzioni, percepisce se stesso e l’ambiente che lo circonda ed esprime emozioni. Proprio come un cagnolino ti segue, risponde e gli si può anche scegliere il carattere che più ci piace.Funziona a batterie ricabili e gli si può inserire un mini USB per gli aggiornamenti. Pleo è stato concepito dai designer ed ingegneri della Ugobe ed è stato progettato per essere un vero e proprio animale da compagnia, gli stessi che hanno creato Furby.

    La Ugobe Live Forms punta a rivoluzionare la robotica e a trasformare oggetti inanimati in creature simili in tutto e per tutto a quelle viventi. Costa 299,00 Euro  ed in Italia è distribuito da E-Motion. I bambini, e non solo, rimangono affascinati da questa creatura che riporta alla mente i grossi mastodonti del passato, ma che ha un carattere dolce e curioso. Ben presto ne saremo invasi! Sta già spopolando, tanto che persino la miliardaria Paris Hilton è stata qualche giorno fa fotografata con Pleo in braccio… E se passate per il centro di Busto, andate a dargli un’occhiatina!

    ottobre 1, 2008 Posted by | Collezionismo, Curiosità | , , , , , , | 4 commenti

    Il dinosauro argentino


    Il dinosauro argentino

    A Buenos Aires, un gruppo di scienziati ha annunciato il ritrovamento dei resti fossili di un dinosauro sconosciuto, vissuto circa 70 milioni di anni fa.  Si trattava di un carnivoro lungo tra i 6 e i 7 metri. La scoperta è avvenuta nella provincia di Santa Cruz, in Patagonia (copyright: Reuters).

    [5 giugno 2008]

    VIDEO – (da “Le Scienze” by reuters)

    giugno 17, 2008 Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, 1 Cretaceo, America Southern, P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia, Video | , , , , | Lascia un commento