LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has pulled the fossil of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex from public view at its Natural History Museum after anger erupted when the fossil's private owner listed it for sale for $2.95 million.
Alan Detrich, who isn't a trained paleontologist, said he originally shared his rare fossil with the museum two years ago because "the public ought to get to see it," the Lawrence Journal-World reports . His eBay sales pitch for the fossil initially highlighted the fossil's ties to the university, prompting the school to tweet that it's not involved in the sale.
Detrich said he and his brother unearthed the 68-million-year-old bones from a 4-year-old T. rex in 2013 on property he leased to hunt for fossils near Jordan, Montana. To the "naysayers" from academia who complained about the university's link with the for-sale specimen, Detrich says his message is "you're welcome."
"You're welcome — for me to allow my dinosaur to be in the museum and to be able to show the people," he said. "People have had the opportunity to actually see the baby T. rex."
Leonard Krishtalka, museum director and KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said in an internal memo that the "intent was to keep the specimen in the museum sphere to be enjoyed by visitors until it was sold to a museum." Krishtalka said the listing's references to the university made it appear the university was promoting the sale in violation of a formal contract approved by the university's legal team. The museum learned this week that Alan Detrich had "abruptly" listed the specimen for sale on eBay without notifying the museum, Krishtalka said.
Besides pulling the display, the museum asked Detrich to remove all references to the university and other "misleading language and photos" from his eBay listing, the memo said.
Detrich, who also is known for making religious art out of dinosaur fossils, has long been a source of frustration to some in the scientific community. They think fossils should be uncovered by people with more training and then donated for scientific study. Detrich, meanwhile, insists fossil hunting is a risky, expensive business.
"Millionaires aren't rich enough to buy these dinosaurs," Detrich said. "I don't have a problem with selling to billionaires, because they've got enough money to protect this fossil and take really good care of it . At some point, all these things end up in museums."
Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com