5 Fun Facts About Fossilized Feces

Fossilized what?! Drop in and check out some fun facts about fossilized feces!

When you think about fossils, you probably think of dinosaurs or other old bones, but did you know feces can be fossilized? From crocodile caca to dino dung, join us as we explore the crappy world of coprolites with these 5 fun facts about fossilized feces!

To learn more about prehistoric poo, stomp into the Poozeum at Orlando Science Center!


What is a coprolite? 

Also known as fossilized feces, coprolites are very old pieces of prehistoric poop that have become fossilized over a very long time. Coprolites come in a variety of shapes and sizes and they have been discovered on every continent on earth.

a very poop looking fossilized feces

The world's largest corporate has a name.

Meet Barnum! At over 2 feet long and 20 pounds, or 67 centimeters and nearly
10 kilograms this eye-wateringly huge T. rex coprolite earned its title in 2020. 

But why is it named Barnum? The coprolite is named after Paleontologist Barnum Brown, who discovered the first Tyrannosaurs rex. Interestingly enough, Barnum Brown was named after P.T. Barnum, the American showman, and Barnum & Bailey Circus founder.

worlds largest fossilized feces

You can make an awesomely crappy career out of it!

Scatology is the study of fecal excrement, as in the fields of medicine, paleontology, or biology. Archaeologists, paleontologists, and paleoscatologists study coprolites to learn more about a species’ diet, habits, and geography.

The “King of Fossilized Feces” George Frandsen on the other hand, opened his own museum -- or Poozeum, part of which is on display at Orlando Science Center! He has spent his life, scouring the globe for these specimens, and sharing facts about fossilized feces, hoping his enthusiasm for coprolites inspires others to immerse themselves in prehistoric history.

poozeum founder George Frandsen

Coprolites are actually incredibly rare.

Coprolites are quite rare because they tend to decay rapidly. The quicker an object is to decay, the less likely it is to successfully fossilize. Fossilization takes time, and if the whole thing decomposes before it can finish, well, no fossil. That’s why hard and durable objects, such as bones and teeth, are much more common fossils than soft tissues like hair, cartilage, or coprolites. When they are found, they are most commonly found among sea creatures.

facts about rainbow fossilized feces

Where can I find fossilized feces?

Corporate has been found all over the world! But the good news is if you really dig fossilized feces, you can drop in to Orlando Science Center! 

From dino dung to crocodile caca, over a dozen prehistoric poo-poos are currently on display. Specimens range in size and date back 11,700 to 200 million years ago. They were discovered all over the world, including some spots in Florida.

fossilized feces facts 2

Learn more! 

A Sweet Archaeology Activity for Kids

Dinosaur lovers will really dig this sweet archaeology activity for kids! 

When paleontologists dig up dinosaurs, they think about a few things. One of the things they think about is where the fossil was found, or its context.

Where in the dirt? Was it near the surface? Deep underground? Was it near footprints? Next to a fossilized tree? Where a fossil was found can tell us more about it.

If you dig dinosaurs, this archaeology activity will turn kinds into junior paleontologists!


Materials:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Tray
  • Toothpicks aka your chisel and hammer
materials for activity

Step 1:

Place your paper on the tray.  This will be your excavation area.

 On the blank side of the paper, use the ruler to mark out a 5cm x 5cm grid.  Each square in the grid should be 1 cm down and 1 cm across.

Label the boxes across the top A, B, C, D, & E, and the boxes down the side 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5. 

a 5 x 5 archaeology grid for activity

Step 2:

Place the cookie in the middle of your plate on top of the squares you drew.

Very carefully, chip the cookie dough away from one chocolate chip.  Watch your fingers!

archaeology activity for kids

Step 3:

Try to excavate as many chips as you can. Use the grid to remember where you found them, and make note of unique shapes or sizes.

recording your archaeology cookie

 

You have now excavated your chocolate chips and noted their position just like a paleontologist does with a dinosaur skeleton. Each numbered square helps them remember where they found a fossil.

an excavated cookie activity for kids

Expand on the activity!

Are Pterodactyls Dinosaurs? Learn More About These Prehistoric Predators

These pterrific facts will help you answer the popular question of whether pterodactyls are dinosaurs!

Pterodactyls, the common name for pterosaurs, are an extinct group of winged reptiles. There was a genus of pterosaur called Pterodactylus – which is where the word “pterodactyl” comes from – but not all pterosaurs belong to this genus.   

Are pterosaurs birds, dinosaurs, or mammals? The answer? D: none of the above! Because they flew and their front limbs stretch out to the sides, they are not dinosaurs. Instead, they’re a distant dinosaur cousin.

 

Pterosaurs lived from the late Triassic Period to the end of the Cretaceous Period, when they went extinct along with dinosaurs. Pterosaurs were carnivores, feeding mostly on fish and small animals. Many had hooked claws and sharp teeth that they used to grab their prey.

Pterosaurs evolved into dozens of individual species. Some were as large as F-16 fighter jets, while others were as small as paper airplanes.

They were also the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight. This means they didn’t just leap into the air or glide but flapped their wings to generate lift.

However, not all pterosaurs could fly. Pterodactylus flew using wings formed by a tough, thin membrane stretching along their bodies to their elongated fourth finger.  

Pterodactyls are carnivores

 

Like birds, pterosaurs had lightweight, hollow bones. Pterosaur skeletons survive as fossils only when their bodies came to rest in a very protected environment. Most pterosaur remains come from species that lived near the ocean or sea.  

Many Pterodactylus fossils are preserved in Bavaria, Germany. During the Jurassic period, the region was a swampy wetland at the edge of an ancient sea. Organisms that washed into the wetland became buried in the mud. This mud slowly hardened into limestone and the bones fossilized.  

Pterodactyls dinosaur fossil

While Pterodactyls are not classified as dinosaurs, they still have a lot in common with other prehistoric predators, and we still have much to learn about them. The rarity of fossils leaves major gaps in our knowledge about pterosaurs. How did they evolve flight? Why did they vanish? What exactly did they look like? Maybe one day you’ll help find answers to these questions! 

Expand on the activity! 

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

How to Fold a Paper T.rex: Origami Dinosaur DIY

DINO-mite project alert! Learn how to fold a paper T.rex!

Watch the video below to learn how to fold a paper T. rex! You’ll have a rawr-ing good time making them and playing with them. We just hope your arms are longer than a T. rex’s.   

Materials you will need:

  • A square piece of paper or a piece of paper you can turn into a square. We recommend using one that is at least 6 in x 6 in.
  • Learn how to use any paper for origami paper here.

Try a T.rex

Once you've got or cut your 6 in x 6 in origami paper, follow along with the steps to make your origami dinosaur. While you're learning how to fold a paper T.rex, consider the following: 

  • Can you name three facts about a Tyrannosaurus rex? 
  • What is one question you have about dinosaurs? 
  • How many different dinosaurs can you name?

Expand on the activity! 

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!

Are Birds Dinosaurs? Looking Into the Dino-Dominated Past

Three toes. Two legs. Little arms. Are dinosaurs birds, or are birds dinosaurs?

Have you ever wanted to see a dinosaur in real life? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to go somewhere like a Jurassic Zoo or a Cretaceous Park and see a T. rex or Apatosaurus doing its dino thing? Creatures such as sharks and horseshoes crabs have stood the test of time, and their descendants can be observed today. But what about other ancient animals? 

We can learn a great deal by looking at their fossils, but there is something else we can do in our modern era to get a glimpse at what dinosaurs may have been like: go bird watching! That’s right! As strange as it may seem, there is a large body of evidence collected by scientists that suggests that birds are in fact the closest living relatives to dinosaurs! But before you grab your hiking gear and binoculars, here are a few cool facts to help you answer the question, "Are birds dinosaurs?"

A dinosaur named Archaeopteryx may be the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds.

Archaeopteryx was discovered in Germany and was surprisingly well preserved. Paleontologists found one specimen that still had feathers! It was long believed that

Archaeopteryx was the first bird, but upon further study, it was found to be more closely related to the Maniraptoran family of dinosaurs than modern birds. This further cemented its place as a bridge, or transition fossil, between dinosaurs and birds.

Archaeopteryx fossils are birds

Birds are related to theropod dinosaurs — a group that includes the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Theropods were bipedal dinosaurs, meaning they walked on two legs, not four like many other dinosaurs. When we look at the modern-day emu or ostrich, the resemblance to these dinosaurs is striking, especially when examining their bone structure.

However, they are not the only birds with similarities to theropods. Underneath Orlando Science Center’s resident T. rex, Stan, we have a skeleton of a chicken to show their shared ancestry. Comparing the two makes one realize how lucky we are that chickens don’t get as big as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.

bird and dinosaur skeleton

Birds have scales like many dinosaurs and some dinosaurs may have had feathers.

Scientists have discovered that the tissues used to produce scales in reptiles are similar to those that produce feathers in birds. This suggests that there is a common ancestor between dinosaurs, birds, and reptiles. Furthermore, birds have scales on their feet!

A recently discovered dinosaur in China had preserved skin with what looks like feathers, or what paleontologists refer to as proto-feathers. However, further study is required, and this is a topic of debate among scientists.

bird and dinosaurs has scales

Birds lay eggs similar to dinosaurs and reptiles.

The similarities between bird and reptile eggs are well known, but they also share traits with dinosaur eggs.

Most dinosaur eggs are hard-shelled, just like the eggs of our modern-day feathered friends. They are also both made up of the same basic elements, calcium, and carbon, which form crystal structures that make the eggshell more difficult to crack.

dinosaurs and birds lay similar eggs

Some modern birds still have claws similar to Maniraptoran dinosaurs.

There is a reason modern birds of prey are often referred to as raptors. Their talons have a similar curvature to those found in dinosaurs like the velociraptor. In the case of the bald eagle, these talons are used to tightly grip their prey.

Other birds have different uses for their talons. The cassowary, native to Australia, is a large flightless bird that can grow as tall as 5.6 feet. With a large crest on their head and blue skin, they look like they walked right out of a time machine! Their claws are mainly used in self-defense. When threatened, these modern-day dinos will rear up and attempt to jab at their attacker with frightening precision.

raptor dinosaur and birds

Expand on the lesson!

So, are birds dinosaurs? Now that we've explored this question, and have learned about how birds are related to dinosaurs, you can go out bird watching and make your own scientific observations! Here in Florida, you don’t have to travel far to spot dinosaur descendants. Birds like the sandhill crane, red-shouldered hawk, and bald eagle can be found in your own backyard or on a short hike!  Create and chart your observations with this DIY animal chart activity!

Make sure to stay safe and take precautions while looking for dino descendants! If you want to learn more about living animals or dinosaurs, be sure to stop by Natureworks or DinoDigs at the Orlando Science Center. We look forward to seeing you!

are sand crane birds dinosaurs

OSC At Home Emails

Get a round up of our latest activities and ideas delivered straight to your inbox so you don't miss a thing!

Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

Facebook Logo Instagram Logo YouTube Logo Twitter Logo

Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!