Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Sea Urchin species...on Ebay?????

So, according to two news articles from the U.K: One from the BBC and one from the UK Guardian a new species of the tropical deep-sea urchin Coelopleurus exquisitus from New Caledonia was described by Dr. Simon Coppard from the Natural History Museum in London based, at least, in part on specimens obtained from the online auction house Ebay!

Although the articles I read didn't indicate how much he paid, auctions for these animals apparently start in the $8 to $12 USD range and have been bid up to $138 USD (especially following the discovery that they were a new species).
(from the BBC)
Its been getting quite common for exotic sea urchin species to be put up for sale on ebay and there is now a considerable collector's community/market for sea urchins, including this (among others on ebay and elsewhere):

Echinoids.nl-An elaborate collector's database for sea urchin tests.

An amateur or non-professional community is a fact of life if you work on fossils or on seashells.

These organizations can do a lot of good towards forwarding the study of these fields but have also met with criticism and concern. Much of it based on the creation of a collector's or retail market for fossils or shells or ? which are the bread and butter of paleontologists and malacologists.

How does creating a collector's market for studying sea urchins affect conservation?

How does it affect the study of these organisms?

What is the net input of non-professional collectors to the academic study of sea urchins?

I guess, we'll have to wait and see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions, Chris.
This also underlines how much biodiversity remains to be identified. I mean, if eBay is getting to things first, we know there's a lot of uncharted territory out there ...