This is a serious problem – counterfeited specimens can mislead palaeontologists into studying an ancient past that never existed.
- This is a serious problem – counterfeited specimens can mislead palaeontologists into studying an ancient past that never existed.
- In a new study, my colleagues and I reveal a surprising truth about a fossil celebrated for decades as one of the best preserved fossils from the Alps.
- The Tridentinosaurus antiquus was a small lizard-like reptile that lived during the Permian period (299-252 million years ago), where the Alps are today.
- The fossil has been reported in books and articles but has never been studied in detail with modern techniques.
The circumstances behind this forgery are unknown, but we know that it took place before 1959 – the date of the official scientific description of the fossil. However, this discovery is a reminder of how important it is to report such specimens and combat fossil forgeries.
The history of fossil forgeries
- The history of fossil forgery goes as far back as the dawn of palaeontology itself, with early reports dating back to the late 18th and 19th centuries.
- This was mainly driven by the lucrative market of selling fossil specimens to private collectors and museums.
- Scientists have discovered that natural history museums around the world have counterfeit specimens in their collections.
- The fossil trade in Morocco alone is worth US$40 million (£32 million) a year and supplies fossil shows all over the world.
- We might not be able to put an end to the making of fake fossils, but we are here and ready to unmask them and protect our marvellous fossil heritage.
- Valentina Rossi is currently affiliated with the University College Cork.
- 11/34; CUP H32F20000010003) awarded to Prof. Evelyn Kustatscher (Museum of Nature South Tyrol, Bolzano, Italy).