integrated essay: selling fossils to private collectors


Private collectors have been selling and buying fossils, the petrified remains of ancient organisms, ever since the eighteenth century. In recent years, however, the sale of fossils, particularly of dinosaurs and other large vertebrates, has grown into a big business. Rare and important fossils are now being sold to private ownership for millions of dollars. This is an unfortunate development for both scientists and the general public.

The public suffers because fossils that would otherwise be donated to museums where everyone can see them are sold to private collectors who do not allow the public to view their collections. Making it harder for the public to see fossils can lead to a decline in public interest in fossils, which would be a pity.

More importantly, scientists are likely to lose access to some of the most important fossils and thereby miss out on potentially crucial discoveries about extinct life forms. Wealthy fossil buyers with a desire to own the rarest and most important fossils can spend virtually limitless amounts of money to acquire them. Scientists and the museums and universities they work for often cannot compete successfully for fossils against millionaire fossil buyers.

Moreover, commercial fossil collectors often destroy valuable scientific evidence associated with the fossils they unearth. Most commercial fossil collectors are untrained or uninterested in carrying out the careful field work and documentation that reveal the most about animal life in the past. For example, scientists have learned about the biology of nest-building dinosaurs called oviraptors by carefully observing the exact position of oviraptor fossils in the ground and the presence of other fossils in the immediate surroundings. Commercial fossil collectors typically pay no attention to how fossils lie in the ground or to the smaller fossils that may surround bigger ones.


The passage and the lecture are about the pros and cons of the selling of the fossils to private collectors. The passage states that there are many disadvantage to sell the fossil to the private collector. However, the lectures argues the disadvantages of selling fossils that are described in the passage.

First of all, the passage describes that if the fossils are sold to private collectors, then public would not be able to see it in museum. Thus, the people may lack interest in the museums. On the other hand, the lecturer says that the commercial private collector sells those fossils at lower level, for example to school or to local museum. These organization can buy those and put them for display for public. By this way, the lecturer points out the disadvantage made in the passage.

The second disadvantage presented in reading is that the scientists will not gain access to those fossils which are directly sold to the private collectors. They cannot evaluate or study more on those fossils. On the contrary, the lecturer says that the fossils sold to private collectors only after detailed examination or its value has been decided. Thus, this point also contradicts the disadvantage of the selling it to private collector.

Lastly, the reading passage states that commercial fossil collectors might not know the valuable scientific evidences of the fossils. They might destroy it because they have no interest in those evidences. In contrast, the lecturer mentions that many fossils might stay undiscovered, might be because of scientist cannot find it properly. This points again contradicts point made in the lecture.

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