A Chinese dinosaur scientist on Saturday appealed to an auction house in Los Angeles not to auction a rare fossilized dinosaur nest that was smuggled out of China. But the 65-million-year-old dinosaur egg nest was sold for a record price of US$419,750 on Sunday.
Auction house Bonhams and Butterfields auctioned the well-preserved dinosaur nest containing fossil eggs with preserved embryos.
US media reported that the 65 million-year-old dinosaur nest was unearthed in south China's Guangdong Province in 1984.
"It was certainly smuggled out of China through illegal channels," said Xing Lida, a paleontologist with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Xing, who is also chief editor of www.dinosaurnet.cn, told Xinhua that smuggled fossils are banned from being used research and from being sold at auction under international regulations.
It has been reported that the nest contained 22 un-hatched eggs arranged in a circular pattern along the edge. Embryonic remains were uncovered in 19 eggs with one egg was removed for study. Some eggs were so well-preserved that the embryos curled inside are visible.
The nest is believed to be that of a raptor and is estimated to fetch between 180,000 to 220,000 US dollars.
Xing said, "It's strange that one egg was removed for study, because it's forbidden to publish articles on smuggled fossils in international academic circles."
He had seen a dinosaur nest with more than 30 eggs in Nanxiong in Guangdong Province, the place where the fossil to be auctioned was found, in the early 1990s. Well-preserved dinosaur embryos are very rare with many Chinese scientists having only seen examples of such fossils in pictures, Xing said.
According to US media, Gerald Grellet-Tinner, a dinosaur expert at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, said such a fossilized nest was a "bonanza" find that could teach scientists a great deal about dinosaur growth and development.
He argued the nest should be housed in a Chinese museum and not in private hands. "I'm totally outraged," he was reported as saying. "A lot of scientific information will be lost."
The theft and smuggling of fossils is a serious problem in China, Xing said. Smugglers often break fossils to make them easy to conceal and carry, destroying crucial scientific information.
He urged the US auction house not to auction the smuggled fossil and return it to China for research.
(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2006)