Bradenton's South Florida Museum is mighty proud of the world's largest collection of fossilized poop that will be unveiled Saturday for National Fossil Day — a day of half-priced admission and a poo specimen nicknamed "Precious" because of the dungstone's connection to an ancient crocodile with a Tolkien tie.
There's some serious science behind this No. 1 collection of No. 2 samples. George Frandsen's compilation of 1,277 guano clusters are what paleontologists call coprolite, and the fossilized doo-doo provides valuable information about the lifestyles and diets of prehistoric animals.
In August, two paleontology specialists from the Florida Museum of Natural History and a (very patient) witness meticulously inspected each coprolite specimen, "to determine if it was a true poop fossil or just a wanna-be fossilized poop," the museum said its announcement. During the official count, more than 30 would-be coprolites were "flushed," as the paleontologists could not be certain that they were, in fact, actual fossilized poop.
But in the end, Guinness declared the stack of scat is the top of the heap, and it will be on display Saturday at the Bradenton museum.
A particular dung stone nicknamed "Precious" is believed to come from an ancient crocodile called Anthracosuchus balrogus that scientists named after the Balrog creatures that lurked deep in the Middle-Earth mines in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
South Florida Museum's education director Jeff Rodgers, a coprolite collector in his own right, said he is especially enthusiastic about the exhibition, calling them "prized nuggets" of "dungstones."
"They are beautiful, in their way, and they are important because they can actually tell us quite a bit about the plant and animal life that flourished in ecosystems that disappeared millions of years ago," said Rodgers, who served as the official witness to the Guinness count.
"Twenty million year old crocodilian coprolites, spirals of fossilized fish poop, bags of mineralized frog feces!" Rodgers marveled. "That is a good day at work."
The museum is offering half-price admission at $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and $7 for kids 4-12 for National Fossil Day, a day designed to promote public awareness of fossils and a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value.
Visitors will be able to meet paleontologists and geologists and see the coprolite collection that includes 1,277 individual samples from 15 states in the U.S. and eight countries.
The fossil exhibits will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and there will be activities such as a fossil hunting station for kids, "Fun with Fossilized Poo" and at 4:15 p.m. a special screening of Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure in the Bishop Planetarium.