Check out this beautiful, red and black, 270 million-year-old fossil. It’s a shark turd. No, seriously, it’s fossilized shark poop. I wonder how you go about finding fossilized shark fecal matter. Even though the fossil is 270 million years old, do you need use hand sanitizer after touching it?
I’m also rather curious how they determined that it’s actually shark dung. Those highly scientific questions will remain unanswered for now. The fact that scientists discovered 270 million-year-old fossilized shark poop isn’t the big story here. The big story here is the fact that the fossilized fecal matter also hides a bunch of fossilized tapeworm eggs.
According to the researchers, finding the fossilized tapeworm eggs means that tapeworms have plagued animals for much longer than science previously believed. Tapeworms are a common parasite that stick to the insides of the intestinal wall inside many vertebrates today. Tapeworms are common in humans, cows, fish, and pigs. The method of infecting other animals for tapeworms is by having its eggs excreted in the host animal’s fecal matter. The official name for fossilized fecal matter is coprolites.
The coprolite you see here has a cluster of 93 oval tapeworm eggs and one of the eggs has a developing tapeworm larva inside. The fossil was discovered in Brazil and dates to the Paleozoic era roughly 251,000,000 to 542,000,000 years ago. Previously, the oldest known example of intestinal parasites in vertebrates was dated to 140 million years. This particular coprolite sample was discovered along with 500 others at one site leading researchers to believe that the area may have once been a freshwater pond where fish were trapped during a dry spell.