In good fun I recently created a comic about the estimated size of megalodon but while drawing it I began to ask some serious questions about the ethics of model building in paleontology - especially when realistically recreating bones which were never actually found with a specimen.


Above we see the jaw bones and teeth of Megalodon on display at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The jaw bones here are totally fake. Nobody has ever found the jaws of megalodon, only the teeth and a few vertebrae. Look how real and misleading this model is.

If you go into any dinosaur museum you will see dozens of full skeletons of extinct creatures. Very few fossils are found with all bones included. It's common in Paleontology to simply sculpt the bones which must be missing. Some make it obvious which bones were found and which were not by making the fakes black or some obviously fake color (see the skull of homo Habilis below) but many museums go way out of their way to make the fake bones look real.

Homo habilis

Some displays will tell you which bones were actually found and which weren't but this is not always the case and even when it is, few people read the fine print.

To any museum directors out there who may be reading this, I submit to you that it is misleading and therefor unethical to create real looking bones for a specimen. Re-creating full skeletons is fine but all re-created bones and fragments should be obviously fake at a glance as shown in Homo habilis above. Please consider this for future display designs.

Jon Perry

See the origional posting of the comic here.