Petrified poo designated national treasure

Rare stone of homely origin offers up clues to Bornholm’s ancient history

A 140-million-year-old turd from Bornholm has been given a prestigious ‘national, natural treasure’ status (danekræ) by paleontologists at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

“Fossil excrement doesn’t grow on trees,” paleontologist and University of Copenhagen assistant professor Arne Thorshøj Nielsen told the Ritzau news bureau, explaining the rarity of the find.

Nielsen added that the ancient excrement “can give us a glimpse into what life was like in Denmark 140 million years ago” – which is why the little hunk of ossified feces has been given the special status reserved for natural history objects with unique scientific significance.

Paleontologists Niels Bond from the University of Copenhagen and Jesper Milan from Østsjællands Museum have conducted the scientific inspection of the brown-hued, tubular-shaped natural treasure.

It was discovered last year in an old gravel pit on the island of Bornholm and measures a little over four centimeters long by two centimeters in diameter and contains minute burrowing holes from the larvae of an ancient species of fly.

The gravel pit itself is the remains of an ancient lagoon. Bits of fishbone and scales in the ‘poostone’ confirm that its maker was a fish-eating animal – quite possibly a turtle. However, the scientists are not ruling out that it might also have come from one of two species of dinosaur that roamed the area around the lagoon in the Cretaceous – although, they were not known to fancy fish.

“The holes from the insects show that the excrement was excreted on land. Later, it probably got buried in the sands of the lagoon, where it was preserved for all time,” said Nielsen.

The lagoon sands that preserved the natural treasure are not found anywhere else in Scandinavia, report geologists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark. In fact, the Bornholm sands are identical to a type of sand found far south in the latitude of present day Italy – evidence supporting the theory that the Bornholm landscape lay far, far south on the globe 140 million years ago.