Longest fossilized poop to be sold at auction

Anyone know what coprolite is? Anyone? Anyone?

If anyone had the guts to guess fossilized excrement, they would be right. What is being described as possibly the longest piece of ancient poop ever found will be sold at an auction on Saturday at the I.M. Chait Gallery in Beverly Hills, Calif.

According to the gallery's catalogue, this "enormous and rare" specimen first appeared between the Miocene and Oligocene eras -- that's roughly 20 million years ago. Priced at $8,000 to $10,000, the fossilized poop boasts an "even, pale brown-yellow coloring" and is about 40 inches in length.

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Lot 340 may be the world's longest known example of dinosaur coprolite (or fossilized dung). Measuring 3 feet 4 inches long, it could fetch up to $10,000 at I.M. Chait Gallery's auction on Saturday.
I.M. Chait

It was discovered about two years ago in Washington state. A paleontologist vetted and prepared the specimen, and mounted the sections of the sample onto four heavy black marble custom bases.

Still, the "passer of this remarkable object is unknown," notes the catalogue.

However, that hasn't stopped some from imagining what or who produced it. Robert Krulwich of NPR joked that perhaps the unknown creature was an Argentavis magnificens, a large prehistoric bird with a wingspan of 23 feet. But with a body not much bigger than most humans, a "release of this length would indeed have been an eyebrow raiser," he wrote.

The Natural History Auction on Saturday will include over 350 items, including six lots of coprolite. Josh Chait, the gallery's spokesperson, told CBS News that four of the specimens were found in dinosaur formations dating from Jurassic era. Lots 339 and 340 (the poop sample in question) are from an unknown species, but Chait said studies have suggested they "could be from a turtle or similar reptile."

"Believe it or not," he said in an email, "[coprolites] are actually quite collectible and most fossil collectors and natural history buffs have, or want, some in their collections."

If previous sales are any indication, this impressive piece of coprolite may even fetch more than the appraised price. A collection of "naturally-colored fossil dung" featured by the auction house in May 2013 was priced at $2,500 to $3,500; it sold for $5,185, according to Chait.

In 2008, a pile of dinosaur dung dating from the Jurassic era, estimated to be worth $450, sold for nearly $1,000 at Bonhams New York. The buyer was the owner of a company that made products for pets. He told The Associated Press he hoped to use the dung as a motivator for his employees and as a marketing tool at trade shows.

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