News of the WeekPaleontology

Smuggled Chinese Fossils on Exhibit

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Science  17 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5375, pp. 315-317
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5375.315

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In response to a 5 July exposé on fossil trading in one of Japan's largest daily newspapers, six Japanese museums are scrambling to get on the right side of a 1989 Chinese law that prohibits the export of such cultural and scientific treasures without proper certification. At the center of the controversy is a chicken-sized creature called Confuciusornis, the second earliest known bird and the oldest to possess such modern characteristics as a toothless beak and the ability to fly. The same cloud may also hang over Confuciusornis specimens acquired by museums in New Mexico and in Frankfurt, Germany.