On Friday, Popular Science, the Daily Mail and others reported that the 40-inch "world's longest dinosaur poo" was going up for auction later this month, available to well-heeled scat lovers for an estimated $10,000. That works out to $250 per inch, which is really pretty reasonable, or at least would be if the fecal fossil were any of the things those outlets claimed.
Dated to the Miocene epoch, the specimen is at least 40 million years too young to come from any dinosaur, a margin of error equal to 165 billion showings of Jurassic Park. To their credit, Popular Science and friends mostly corrected this mistake, but failed to note the arguably more important fact that the turd-olith was probably never shat at all.
Found in southwestern Washington's Wilkes formation, the legitimacy of this and other "coprolites" (the scientific name for poop fossils) from the area was first challenged over 20 years ago by Whitman College Professor of Geology Patrick K. Spencer. Speaking with Gawker, Spencer affirmed that his examination of the objects turned up nothing to "suggest an organic origin" and noted that in 80 years not a single vertebrate bone had been found at the site.
In 2000, Western Washington University's George Mustoe reached a similar conclusion, attributing their formation to geologic processes. As Mustoe told Gawker, some of the alleged coprolites "would require defecation by a turtle the size of a 1958 Buick."
[Image via Mirror.co.uk]