Smuggled Chinese Paleozoic Fossils Returned by the US

Chinese Paleozoic fossils, 93 boxes weighing 14 tons, once smuggled to the United States, were returned gratuitously to China. However, at least one box of sea lily was found severely damaged when experts from the Beijing Museum of Natural Sciences checked them.

Those 110 pieces of Paleozoic fossils are the largest batch returned to China gratuitously by the United States, among which the most valuable one is a 4-5-meter-long, well-preserved Guizhou ichthyosaur. It is a kind of unique sea creature living in China's Guizhou Sea about 300 million years ago. Besides the ichthyosaur, there are also 10 Guizhou dragons, some fish fossil and crinoids.

According to experts, it is unprecedented to collect at a single time so much valuable Paleozoic fossil in the history of the museum. More importantly, no artificial carving signs are shown on those fossils.

Experts indicated those fossils were found in Guizhou Province. The Guizhou ichthyosaur, Guizhou dragon and crinoids existed in seas during the Triassic Period of the Mesozoic Era, some 225 million years ago.

The Guizhou ichthyosaur and Guizhou dragon were believed to have disappeared in the late Mesozoic Era, while crinoids were invertebrates that lived 200 to 300 meters beneath the sea.

The fossils were seized by customs officers of San Diego, California. The United States decided to return the smuggled fossils in accordance with agreements with China after confirming the source country of these fossils.

(People's Daily June 13, 2002)

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