Wednesday, 21 August 2013

First Fossil Whale Poop Pops Up in Italy

Clumps of squid beaks sticking out of clay in Italy's Umbrian badlands may be the first fossilized ambergris, or whale poo, ever found.

Ambergris is a fatty, waxy-looking substance. Scientists believe sperm whales — the largest toothed predator on Earth — secrete ambergris inside their digestive tracts to protect themselves from sharp objects, like giant squid beaks and fish bones and teeth. And contrary to urban legend, ambergris is actually whale poo, not vomit. Sought after by perfume makers, aged ambergris is like umami for the nose, adding musky depth to scents.

Even though scientists have discovered fossilized feces, called coprolites, from dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mammoths and sharks, no one has reported finding ancient ambergris.

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