Florida

Florida’s king of fossilized feces really knows his s---

George Frandsen, 37, speaks about coprolites -- fossilized feces -- Wednesday evening at the South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton.
George Frandsen, 37, speaks about coprolites -- fossilized feces -- Wednesday evening at the South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton. Bradenton Herald

George Frandsen taught nearly two dozen people Wednesday evening about his lifelong hobby of collecting coprolites, otherwise known as fossilized feces.

"Insights into Coprolites: Fun with Fossilized Feces" was part of the South Florida Museum's monthly discussion "think + drink (science)," where attendees learn about cutting-edge science over a beer or glass of wine.

Frandsen, a Jacksonsville resident, owns the world's largest private collection of fossilized feces. In August, Guinness World Records officially recognized the 37-year-old's coprolite collection as the world's largest with 1,277 specimens hailing from eight countries and 15 U.S. states. The collection is now at the South Florida Museum.

Before Frandsen launched into a delightful, often humorous presentation about fossilized feces, South Florida Museum director of education Jeff Rodgers introduced him to guests.

"George was kind enough to leave it with us for a year and we have been making great use of it, spending as much time as we can talking poo," Rodgers said.

Frandsen, who began collecting coprolites as a college freshman in Utah, spoke about how feces becomes fossilized. The process includes a soft landing for feces, which is then quickly buried by sediments to become mineralized over time.

"Why are coprolites important to the fossil record and why do people want to study them? Other than being funny and you can make jokes. ... and they're like the best paperweight ever," Frandsen said. "They can offer a lot of insight into prehistoric life, such as diets, behavior and environments."

Frandsen showed numerous examples, including some with bones embedded in them. Others had burrows, which Frandsen said were signs other animals used the feces as a home, protection or food.

He often posed questions and attendees roared with laughter when awarded with small coprolites.

Lynn Wietharn, 70, was one of the lucky ones. After the presentation, he stood beside his wife, Ruth Wietharn, 67, who chuckled during most of the talk.

"I think one of the funniest things was when he said that he was going to give away turds as prizes," she said. "And we won a turd!"

Ruth said they're going to give the fossilized feces to their 4-year-old granddaughter.

"She will love it." she said, laughing. "She will be so excited that Grandpa brought her a dinosaur turd. Hopefully it will inspire her to learn, to look into it and investigate it."

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