Recently, 36-year-old George Frandsen of Bradenton, Florida, achieved a Guinness World Record that won't be easy to flush away anytime soon: the largest collection of fossilized poop.
Kacey Deamer at LiveScience reports that Frandsen’s collection of 1,277 chunks of mineralized feces, otherwise known as coprolites, has been certified as the largest in the world. The collection has specimens from 15 states and eight countries and includes massive dino dumps and tiny poos made by insects. Luckily, over millions or in some cases thousands of years the feces has mineralized, meaning it no longer smells and is similar to poo-shaped rocks.
So how, and why, does a person begin such a collection? Frandsen tells Jacqueline Ronson at Inverse that his obsession began while studying paleontology in college where he came across his first coprolites. “I had never heard of them. I had never seen one. I didn’t know they existed. So it just turned something on in me. It was just such a fascinating little nugget. It was funny, it was interesting — everything that 18-year-old guys love.”
But the coprolites are special in other ways as well. First, Frandsen tells Ronson coprolites are even rarer than fossils. That’s because most feces is scavenged or weathers away before it has a chance to fossilize. But occasionally an ancient animal relieved itself in sediment, which quickly covers the offering in a low-oxygen environment of mud or silt. “Over many, many thousands of years, or millions of years, the minerals leach into the turd and replace the turd composition with minerals and then you have coprolite. And it also fossilizes the bits within the turd — so if the animal ate a fish and the turd is full of fish scales and fins and that type of thing, the turd will also have those bits of fossilized material in it.”
In fact, those bits within the coprolite are very important. “What got me interested in finding and collecting coprolites is the story they tell of prehistoric life and ecosystems,” Frandsen said in a Guinness World Records video. “No other fossils can tell you so much as coprolites can.”
For instance, T. Rex coprolites found in Canada are chock full of undigested flesh and bone, indicating that the carnivorous dinosaur only partially digested its dinner, reports Ronson. That indicates the species must have eaten an enormous amount of food to keep its massive body going.
Luckily for the poo-curious, Frandsen’s awesome collection is available online at the Poozeum, which he curates. (It's slogan is “#1 for fossilized #2.”) Among the collection's standouts is a 23- to 5-million-year-old, 1-pound 4-oz chunk of poo collected in South Carolina that has bite marks from an aquatic animal, possibly a small shark or young crocodilian. The smallest is a piece of petrified wood from the same Miocene time span, discovered in Santa Barbara County, California, that contains fossilized frass, or insect poo, from termites.
But the greatest poo of them all is another Miocene treasure found in South Carolina. Dubbed “Precious,” it weights 4 pounds, 3.5 ounces and comes from a crocodilian that was likely 20 feet long or more. Frandsen says it is the largest “true-to-form” coprolite in the world, meaning it’s in the still in the same shape it came out with.