[Non-ceph] Anomalocaris


TONMO Supporter
Nov 19, 2002
This bizarre Cambrian arthropod (?) has been mentioned more than once on these pages during the last year or so (usually by myself). Although it is not a cephalopod, and strictly speaking is pushing the remit of these pages, I thought some readers might be interested to know there is an example of Anomalocaris saron currently on E-bay.

This is quite unbelievable; these things simply do not come up for sale. I am only aware of one other, from Utah, that is up for sale, the asking price on that example is about $8000. I only hope that a museum purchases it, or it is used for research. However, I fully expect it will not be and will be lost to science forever. A pity.

Anomalocaris on E-bay

It seems here in Utah, the soft bodied Cambrian fossils are alot more common than previously thought. Especially in the wheeler shale where most of the trilobite fossils are found. In the State leased commercial quarries the trilobites are so well preserved and ubiquitous, that if you didnt see a trilobite after splitting a rock, you would just chuck it over in the disscard pile without taking a close look at anything else in the rock. Then a new soft bodied fauna quarry was opened in the Drum Mts. by one of the universities around here and people started looking closer at the rejects, and are finding alot more soft bodied fossils. I believe (I'm not sure) that all important fossils from the state leased quarries are screened by the state. However, most of the quarries in western Utah are on federal land (Bureau of Land Management, BLM) and as far as I know there are no commercial leases, so any invertebrate fossils found there are to be used only by the collector, and cannot be bartered or sold. "Most" of the fossils from Utah I see on Ebay could not have come from the state leased quarries (in my opinion). But because these fossils are so numerous and only invertebrates not much is done about selling them (vertebrates are different, remember "Sue") New laws are in congress right now that might even keep me from looking for fossils on BLM land (about 65% of the state, and 99% of the places I hunt), enforcement of existing laws would be better IMHO.

Have a look at the following link

Utah Fossil Page

The Wheeler Fm, Drum Mountains section has the soft bodied fossils

Just to keep it Cephy take a good look at Selkirkia in that section. Ceph ancestor :?: :?:

Cheers Kevin.

That's very interesting information about the legality of fossil collecting in Utah and the information you provide. I did not realise that sites in Utah were that common, and that state leases were granted (things are somewhat different over here). I knew some trilobites, such as Elrathia, are ten-a penny, and are a staple of fossil dealers the world over, it seems. I had always assumed the commercially available Elrathia were found in the Wheeler Quarry and was unaware of so many other sites; I have a couple of interesting bits and pieces from the Wheeler and I might post a few pictures of them tomorrow.

I am very worried about this Anomalocaris, if that is truly what it is, that has come up for sale. How was it obtained? I cannot believe that a site as unique as the Chinese Chen-jiang fauna is not protected and I can only assume that it was illegally collected. This soft-bodied Chinese site has yielded some of the most beautiful, well-preserved and scientifically important fossils in recent years. This site is actually older than the Burgess Shale and the fossils there are often preserved in a better condition than its Canadian cousin. As such they provide fascinating snapshot into complex life at a very early stage of development; the thought of such a site being plundered for commercial gain brings shudders to the spine. What we see on e-bay here is surely just the tip of the iceberg.

I have absolutely nothing against commercial and private collecting (how could I?), but some sites of extreme scientific interest should be afforded greater physical (and legal) protection. I know it is so easy to say……….

Rant over.

By the way, I am not convinced that is Anomalocaris saron, from the, admittedly indistinct, photos. I’d put my money on Amplectobelua. Who knows? The thing will be lost to research in a couple of days anyway.

Selkirkia? Hmm……….I thought that was a priapulid. I’ll investigate.
Phil, when money is at stake anything goes, as long as someone is willing to pay the price, there will be someone wanting to take their money. Some of them chinese fossil sellers are getting really good at forging fossils, like that feathered dinosaur a few years ago (I think they've found a real one since), is it possible that fossil is a fake? I thought that all fossil exports from china were illegal?

When Utah became a state in 1896 (after we outlawed polygamy!) the federal government gave the state about 10% of the federally owned land as school trust land, to be used to support the public schools in the state. It just happened that the best outcrops of the Wheeler Shale with all it's Elrathia's was on one of these sections, so the more Elrathia's YOU buy the less taxes I will have to pay!

The following link is from some folks I know here in Utah and pretty much sums up my own philosophy

Fossil Collecting Ethics

I have let a few professional paleontologists go thru my collection and take whatever fossils they thought were important to their studies or the science in general. I used to trade, but have stopped, and I don't sell any fossils at all, in fact nowdays I leave most of the fossils I find where I find them and just mark the spot with my GPS, unless they are new to me, or a better specimen than I have.

Selkirkia: It was just my imagination running away with me. I saw a conical shell with a set of teeth (or something) that would become arms with sucker hooks, and another set that would become radulae, and something on the end that would become a beak.

I was going to just attach the photo but because it is so big I will just link to it.

Photo courtesy of Utah Fossil Page

I remember that fiasco about the Chinese dino-bird a couple of years ago, Archaeoraptor, I think it had been called. National Geographic really ended up with egg on their faces over that one. However, wasn't there a twist in the tail to that story? I think that the tail was from a previously unknown feathered dinosaur and invaluable in its own right. (A jaded memory...was it the head?)

A farmer in China with a fossil quarry in his land could potentially make a great deal more money from illegal fossil trading than his everyday farming job. I have no idea what the penalties are in China for fossil trading but a great deal of stuff does seem to work its way onto the market. I once saw a web-site that was offering human skulls and complete human skeletons for sale for export for 'medical research'. Who were these bodies, victims of Chairman Mao? Goodness knows how that could possibly be legal. As you say, some people will do anything for money.

The Fossil Collecting link is really very good. I think the philosophy there is absolutely spot-on.

Having said all that, Kevin, if you ever see one of these Elrathia trilobite for sale with an Anomalocaris bitemark, please let me know!

If an Architeuthis ever comes up for sale on e-bay, I think we shall be asking questions at the University of Auckland! :lol:
Phil said:
If an Architeuthis ever comes up for sale on e-bay, I think we shall be asking questions at the University of Aukland! :lol:

... I've thought about it; it'd cost a fortune in postage and packing.
Well, there we go.

The Anomalocaris went for $325 in the end, a bargain really. It was almost certainly illegally collected from a site of extreme scientific importance. These exceptionally rare Dinocarids are some of the most intensely studied invertebrate fossils at the moment; this should never have come up for sale, IMHO. :grad: :x

Another triumph. I just hope the winner appreciates what he has there.

If anyone wants to learn about anomalocarids, this is the place to go, and it is a fantastic site:

The Anomalocaris Homepage