P. Edronkin

Notes On Picking Fossils (I).

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I am an explorer, not a palaeonthologist. However, during the course of many expeditions I have found a variety of fossils, and between 1991 and 1995 I have organised and directed a series of palaeonthological research expeditions in an area known as Cerro Plataforma, in Patagonia, among others.

This is the southernmost region of the world, with an implacable subpolar weather, isolated and unpopulated.

Such conditions, combined with a particular abundance of fossils make it relatively easy to find spectacular specimens of many kinds.

This easiness, however, has one drawback: it is easy to plunder the area. In fact, some people with no research but commercial interests - and even some unethical scientists - just go around the place taking what they want and as they want.

Fossils are in many cases quite decorative, and this simple fact makes them valuable. Fossils are, however, a key to the past; every single specimen is unique and the information that it can yield to appropriately trained researchers may be invaluable indeed. Thus, taking away fossils with no concern for science is against the interest of us all, and seeing these items on sale or auction is unethical and sometimes downright against the law; plain and simple.

Palaeonthology depends to a great extend on interpretation. In order to develop correct picture of the situation in which the animal or plant was buried under the ground, palaeonthologists must be able to study the conditions in which fossils are found, the surrounding terrain, etc.

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