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GUEST VIEW: Dinosaur Hunter Discusses Commercial Vs. Academic Finds

September 30, 2013

On Sept. 25, the Fargo Forum published an article about Dueling Dinosaurs, a pair of dinosaurs that appear to be fossilized in a fighting position, that referred to the upcoming auction of the find as "mostly hype." In the article, Paleontologist Jack Horner claimed the find had no scientific value because it was collected by people who make money.
I respect Jack Horner and the academics that do research in the field of paleontology, but I could not disagree more with the comment that all scientific value is lost simply because money is involved.
While I disagree with asking exorbitant prices, most would agree that decent compensation for the tremendous efforts put out is reasonable. Why? Because the fact is, tons of fossils are wasted away by the erosion process every year. Academics cannot cover the vast acreage of fossil-bearing lands and, as a result, 90 percent of all important finds are by amateurs or commercial paleontologists. Not for the love of money, but for the thrill of discovery.
It also needs to be said that the basements of many of our largest museums are filled with fossils collected 150 years ago.
Are we to believe that these finds have no scientific value because of the collection process? Of course not.
So let's find a way to work together.
Next summer I will spend weeks hunting for fossils in the remote badlands using my own money, not money from a museum or some university.
I could find something spectacular like the Dueling Dinosaurs. I will reach out to the academics. If an academic comes to this site, he will find a carefully laid-out grid pattern and extensive documentation of cataloged finds. I will explain what has been found so far, and welcome constructive criticism if my collection technique needs refining.
The science will be preserved. I will, however, eventually present the find to the world with a reasonable expectation that I will recoup my investment. I might even get enough to fund the next expedition. The alternative is unthinkable.
A new and fantastically unusual species goes undiscovered and lost to the sands of time. Eroded to nothing because the people on this venture did not meet the qualifications set by academics.
Again, let's find some common ground. We know there is only a small window of opportunity. Just after exposure by the latest thunderstorm but before the sun and wind make reclamation impossible.
Who knows what's out there? Let's not deprive the world of an amazing story played out eons ago like the Dueling Dinosaurs. Keep incentives in place and there will always be another newspaper headline about dinosaurs inspiring the imagination.
Alan Komrosky
Commercial Paleontologist

Komrosky is based in Valley City. Read this in Monday's Times-Record.

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