Stolen fossils say a lot about our failure as a nation – 12/26/2020 – Reinaldo José Lopes

Who cares about dinosaurs? “Only the children and Reinaldo”, who once fired a colleague from a newspaper during a meeting (I don’t want to mention his name here – the joke, although somewhat insensitive, does not seem to me to be intended to humiliate him) . I will certainly not surprise anyone if I say that I disagree. They learn a lot from dinosaurs – especially when they are stolen.

There is no other word to describe what happened to Ubirajara jubatus, a 110 million year old animal that lived in what is now the hinterland of Ceará. Adorned with remnants of primitive feathers, it is a unique example for Brazilian paleontology – but it ended up in Germany in the most picky way.

Colleague Giuliana Miranda told the story with the usual competence in this folha: With a typewritten document from 1995, which should look more like on bread paper, the researcher Eberhard Frey from the State Natural History Museum in Karlsruhe managed to cross the Atlantic with the fossils .

A few details need to be highlighted: The document deals with the “transporting” of the pieces (referred to as “two boxes of limestone specimens with fossils” without saying what the hell would be in them) that are not in the possession of the German museum . And this is due to the simple fact that since the 1940s Brazilian legislation has not allowed this type of item to get into the hands of foreigners or individuals in Brazil: fossils are Union goods, according to the law.

After the description of the species was published in the journal Cretaceous Research, Brazilian paleontologists used their social networks for good reason to condemn disregard for the country’s law and scientific community. A colonial horror show followed: Frey insinuated that Brazil was still profitable because the dinosaur wasn’t burned like the fossils that were in the National Museum in 2018; The Briton David Martill, another author of the study, also mocked the fire in the National Museum and recalled: “We [o Reino Unido] We are still an empire. “

The game seems to be turning, however. By mobilizing social networks and the academic community, paleontologists like Aline Ghilardi from UFRN and Taissa Rodrigues from Ufes, as well as the head of the Brazilian Society of Paleontology, managed to put enough pressure on chalk research to publish research on feathered dinosaurs, at least for the time being. Now the legal battle must begin over the return of the fossils.

And? Isn’t it all just a childish fixation by paleontologists (and mine) on extinct animals? Again I disagree. Cases like this are a microcosm of how much is wrong with us as a nation.

Brazilian fossils are only traded because of the misery that drives the hinterland into an illegal form of trade and places clever middlemen in the way. Our dinos only push boundaries because our raw and dysfunctional state is extremely efficient when it comes to covering up a bad blow, but he becomes a friend of the chest of the first gringo to manage to wet a superior’s hand.

The Ubirajara saga, in particular, shows that there are still people on the other side of the rift who know this story – and prehistory. That building a worthwhile Brazilian identity depends on honesty and science, not ignorance and brutality. To these brave ones, my best wishes for a happy 2021.

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