You can find just about anything on eBay, including now a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil listed for almost $3 million.
The online sale drew an outcry on social media because the T. rex was on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.
“This young REX is currently on display at the University of Kansas MUSEUM of Natural History,” the eBay listing originally read. It also said a research paper was forthcoming.
“Crazy,” Laura McLain said in a tweet. “I knew fossil sales were a big issue but never thought a legitimate museum would sell scientific knowledge.”
There’s a “baby T. rex” on eBay with a $3 million price tag, advertising that the fossil is at @kunhm and getting a technical writeup as part of the sales pitch.
This is a huge problem with the fossil market, where private specimens can be pulled and sold to whoever, whenever. pic.twitter.com/OYhRDq6nEl
— Riley Skeleton Keys! (@Laelaps) April 8, 2019
Another person called it “seriously embarrassing.”
“As an alum, I am disappointed to see the state's most important natural history museum acting as a shill for commercial fossil sales,” Patricia Holroyd said on Twitter.
Museum leaders said the organization had nothing to do with the listing. That specific T. rex was, in fact, never owned by the museum.
“The KU Natural History Museum does not sell or mediate the sale of specimens to private individuals,” said Director Leonard Krishtalka in a statement. “The specimen on exhibit-loan to us has been removed from exhibit and is being returned to the owner.”
The fossil had been loaned to KU by Alan and Robert Detrich in late 2017. The fossil stayed on display under the agreement that KU would take it down when it was sold.
The agreement said the museum would not promote the sale or have any association with it.
“Our intent was to keep the specimen in the museum sphere to be enjoyed by visitors until it was sold to a museum,” Krishtalka said in a message to department staff.
But then, the fossil was abruptly listed on eBay without notice.
“The eBay listing referenced the KU Natural History Museum, which made it appear as if we were promoting the sale, and which was in violation of our contract,” he said in the message.
After the listing was posted, the museum took the T. rex display down.
Museum officials asked that the reference to KU be removed from the listing and it was taken off the eBay page.
KU paleontologists have worked to excavate juvenile T. rex fossils in Montana. Krishtalka said KU researchers have studied a different juvenile T. rex specimen the museum owns.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.
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