House in Wyoming Raided and Dinosaur Skull Seized
The skull of a Tyrannosaur known as a Tarbosaurus (Tarbosaurus bataar) has been seized by agents of the federal Homeland Security Department (United States), as part of an on-going investigation into the smuggling of dinosaur fossils out of Asia.
The fossil is estimated to be worth around £250,000 and it has been seized as part of a wider investigation into the illegal trade in fossils and other materials which are taken from Mongolia. Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation Team, Louis Martinez was unable to release further details as enquiries were still continuing.
Tarbosaurus was a large Tyrannosaur, closely related to Tyrannosaurus rex. It lived during the Late Cretaceous around seventy million years ago and its fossils have been found in Mongolia. In May, an eight metre long, mounted specimen of a Tarbosaurus was sold at auction. It fetched over £600,000 but this exhibit was later seized by Government officials who suspected that this specimen had been smuggled out of Mongolia, where it has been illegal to ship fossils for over fifty years.
An Illustration of the Late Cretaceous Theropod Tarbosaurus
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
It is not known at this stage what the skull seizure has to do with the Tarbosaurus fossils sold at auction but it is likely that this seizure is linked to the Tarbosaurus sold at auction in New York. A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that such actions can only help to highlight the illegal trade of fossils from countries such as Mongolia. A more prominent role by U.S. Customs could help deter would-be smugglers in future.
To read an article about the Tarbosaurus specimen sold at auction in New York (May 2012): Dinosaur Fossil Sold at Auction