Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Dinosaur Fossil That Fooled The World

In February 1999 at a vast gem and mineral fair in the US desert city of Tucson, an amazing fossil from China came on to the market It was priced at $80,000 and only the very top dealers were invited to see it. It had the head and body of a bird and the tail of dinosaur. It had all the characteristics of one of the most sought-after fossils in all paleontology – the missing link that proved once and for all that dinosaurs evolved into birds.

One of the world’s most revered and widely-read magazines became involved. In exchange or an exclusive story, it agreed to fund the analysis if the fossil. A team of top experts in the field were assembled to examine the new discovery.

In October 1999, a press conference was held at the magazine’s headquarters to publicise their international scoop. The magazine proclaimed a new species, archaeoraptor lianoningensis. Then, after a detective story that followed a path across China, the awful truth emerged.The fossil was a fake. It had been constructed out of fragments of several different animals. One of the world’s most respected popular science journals had made a terrible mistake.

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