Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Archaeoraptor was a fossil believed to be an intermediary between dinosaurs and birds, but proved to be an archaeological forgery.
The purported fossil of archaeoraptor was found 1998 in a gem show in Tucson, Arizona. It had been found on the Liaoning Province of China, sold on the black market and smuggled into the United States. Stephen Czerkas, owner of the Dinosaur Museum in Monticello, Utah, purchased it for $80,000 and contacted National Geographic Society. The society made a deal to study it and eventually return it to China.
The fossil was unveiled in a press conference on October 15 1999, and an article about the find was published in the November 1999 issue of National Geographic Magazine. The magazine described it as a missing link that would connect dinosaurs and birds. The original fossil was put on display at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC, pending return to China. Team of Geographic-supported experts named the fossil Archaeoraptor liaoningensis.
However, in an open letter, Storrs L. Olson , Curator of Birds in the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution protested that the archaeoraptor was effectively contraband, and that the magazine wanted to support a contested theory about birds being descended from theropods. The scientific journals Nature and Science did not accept a scientific article about the archaeoraptor.
Xu Xing , member of Beijing's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) noticed that the back half of the fossil resembled a dinosaur he was studying, later called Microraptor zhaoianus. He returned to China and traveled to Liaoning Province where he inspected the fossil site. His suspicions that the dinosaur-like tail of the fossil did not belong to the animal were confirmed. In December he contacted a number of fossil dealers and eventually found the fossilized body that corresponded to the tail on the archaeraptor. He informed the National Geographic Society, and CT scans funded by the society confirmed his suspicions. The society still believed the fossil to be important, however.
By January 2000 the fossil had proven to be fraudulent. In the October 2000 issue, the magazine published a retraction and an article about the case. A Chinese farmer had created the archaeoraptor fossil by gluing two fossils together, one of which was a Microraptor. The magazine had been too hasty to publish the find.
On November 21, 2002 Nature announced that the front end of the fossil was the primordial bird species Yanornis martini , identified in 2001.
External links and references
- Helen Briggs, 'Piltdown' bird fake explained, from March 29, 2001, BBC News Online.
- Hillary Mayell, [Dino Hoax Was Mainly Made of Ancient Bird, Study Says], from the November 20, 2002 National Geographic News.
- ARCHAEORAPTOR STATEMENT, a National Geographic press release, from February 3, 2000.
- Lewis M. Simons, Archaeoraptor Fossil Trail, from the October 2000 National Geographic magazine.
- DinoData's technical analysis of the composite.
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