Dinosaur Footprint Stolen

Thieves have raided a palaeontological dig site in the Jura mountains (Switzerland) and made off with a fossilised dinosaur footprint.  The theft, which took place on Thursday, is unfortunately evidence of a worrying trend in palaeontology, with sky-rocketing prices being paid for dinosaur fossils a black market for them has been set up and unscrupulous individuals are resorting to stealing from sites, tempted by the high prices collectors are willing to pay.

Scientists working on upper Jurassic rocks (152 mya), had uncovered a number of trace fossils including dinosaur trackways and ichnologists (specialists who study footprints), had claimed that this particular footprint belonged to an Allosaur.  Allosaurs are well-known from American finds but there has been little evidence of Jurassic carnivores recovered to date from Europe.  The footprint and other items from the sediments would have helped shed light on the fauna in the area at the end of the Jurassic period.

An impression of what the Dinosaur Footprint might look like

Source: Everything Dinosaur

The stone slab that contained the footprint had not been properly studied by scientists when it was stolen, perhaps vital clues as to the size of the Allosaur that made the footprint have been lost for ever.  The thieves were certainly very determined and well organised as the rock containing this trace fossil weighed several hundred kilogrammes.

A spokesman for the Jura cantonal Dept. of Palaeontology, commented that the raiders would find it difficult to sell this fossil, it had been photographed and this would make it easier to identify if it was to appear in a fossil sale.

Estimates as to the value of this single item vary, if not preserved properly the specimen could deteriorate and the impression lost for ever.  A single foot print would not make a striking enough fossil to interest an avid collector or specialist.  Yet if the footprint had been studied “in situ” much more evidence about the animal that made it could be gathered.

The authorities have called upon the perpetrators to return the fossil.

As the dominant predators 50 million years before the Tyrannosaurs took over the Allosaurs are a very important group of meat-eating dinosaurs.  Classified as Carnosaurs this particular group of large predators were widespread in the late Jurassic.  Fossils of Allosaurs have been found in western North America, Africa, Portugal and possibly in Australia (A, astragalus).  The best known species is A. fragilis, with several hundred specimens known, but evidence of Allosaurs in Europe is extremely rare.

There are a number of Allosaur models available, ironically some of the best ones come from German manufacturers, not a million miles from the site of this Jurassic excavation.

Dinosaur Models: Dinosaur Toys – Dinosaur Models

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