Mother nature is capable of some incredible things. To this day, we’re still discovering fossils and other evidence that our planet has been producing spectacular wonders for billions of years.

So when one farmer in Argentina found what looked like a dinosaur egg, it wouldn’t have been altogether surprising if that was truly what it was. Yet the truth was utterly shocking.

Jose Antonio Nievas didn’t expect to make history when he decided to go for a walk around his family’s farm in Argentina on Christmas Day in 2015, but fate had other ideas.

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His farm is not in a particularly remote location, as Buenos Aires in just 25 miles north. Yet what Jose found did not appear to be from the world as we know it today.

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Jose came across what appeared to be a giant black egg near a riverbed. It was so massive and unusual, he rushed home to share the news with his family. 

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It wasn’t clear at first just how big the object was, as it was entirely covered in mud. When Jose dug around it, its true size slowly revealed itself. At 3 feet wide, it was far too large to be a dinosaur egg… or any kind of egg at all.

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It was actually a kind of shell — or armor — of an animal that lived during the Ice Age and has since deceased. They soon found out that the shell belonged to a Glyptodon, part of a genus of the armadillo family.

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 More than 10,000 years ago, the continent of South America was clamoring with these creatures which, according to fossil records, resembled a Volkswagen Beetle and weighed just as much, too.

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Amazingly, the shell that Jose found was in great condition, which is extremely rare for its age. Like fingerprints, no two Glyptodon shells are alike, and each has a special pattern.

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Glyptodons were herbivores, so their armor helped protect them from predators. Fossils from the cousins of this species have been found in other parts of South America, including Uruguay and Brazil.

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Each Glyptodon had an armored tail, too, which paleontologists believe is a sign that they fought each other. They were so powerful, they could crush their opponents’ shells.

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Glyptodon shells are made out of roughly 1,000 bony plates. These animals had huge shoulders, stout legs, and a fused vertebrae to help them carry all that weight.

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Some compare Glyptodons to turtles, but experts say that this is merely coincidental. Still, even though both come from very different ancestry, they developed similar ways to adapt to their habitats. 

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While Glyptodons couldn’t hide their heads in their shells like turtles, they had a sort of “helmet” in the form of a bone cap. The shell that Jose found was damaged, and experts wonder if this was caused by a battle with another Glyptodon.

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Despite its size, the shell is actually smaller than that of most Glyptodons. The species can grow up to six feet wide, so this one likely was a juvenile.

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Some are skeptical of the legitimacy of the find, but several experts have confirmed that it is authentic. “It would be an ingenious hoaxer who would construct such a thing,” said Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London in an interview.

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The green part of the shell that Jose found may provide a hint as to how legitimate it is. Mud is eroded as water flows down the river, exposing the armor to the elements and discoloring the shell.

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The hole in the shell still boggles scientists. There’s a different hole where the head would go, and another for the tail. It doesn’t look like this one was the result of any kind of fight, so it’s possible that this damage occurred recently.

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Unfortunately, without any glyptodons alive today, that’s about all we know. Glyptodons died out around 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age, so the shell that Jose found likely perished around that time.

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Indeed, Jose’s find sounds like something out of a sci-fi story, but there are some fascinating real world implications.

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This shell proves that, with so many years of history under the Earth’s belt, there is still plenty waiting to be discovered. So the next time you’re exploring the wilderness, keep your eyes peeled.

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 You really never know what you might find! That’s probably why when one British couple stumbled upon a gray lump on the beach, they almost ignored it. How could it be anything of value? But just like Jose, something told them to take a closer look.

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Gary and Angela Williams could usually be found strolling the Middleton Sands beach near England’s Morecambe Bay during the weekend. They liked to go there to get fresh air and search for unusual objects on the shore.

The couple had obviously seen their fair share of beach rarities by this point. However, they were puzzled when they spotted something rather odd in the surf.

It looked almost like a dinosaur egg. Gary and Angela weren’t totally sure, but something told them it was no ordinary rock. Upon closer inspection, it had some very unusual qualities about it.

The object had a waxy, almost sticky, texture. It also seemed to have multiple rocky materials — even some shells — making up its body. But that wasn’t the strangest part…

ambergris

The thing reeked. Sure, it was close to some rotten fish on the beach, but it definitely had its own distinct smell. Gary described it as “a cross between a squid and farmyard manure.”

Gary and Angela guessed that this odd substance was ambergris. It might not have seemed like it would be worth anything — after all, it was pretty gross — but they could make a fortune if their suspicions were correct.

So what is ambergris? Well, it is produced in the bile ducts of a whale’s intestine when various objects that cannot be digested clump together, hardening over time.

Flickr / Alexander Safonov

The mass either stays in the whale or passes out of it from one end or the other. So ambergris is essentially a hardened lump of whale vomit. Pretty cool, right?

All things considered, the process behind the formation of ambergris isn’t that different from the way that oysters compact grains of sand into a pearl.

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However, a smelly, sticky, all-around-disgusting three-and-a-half-pound lump of whale refuse would be worth over $70,000! Talk about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure.

But just why was it so pricey? Well, ambergris develops a sweeter smell over time and has served as a key ingredient in very fine and expensive perfumes for centuries. 

Love Vintage

Of course, far more people were aware of its value back in the day. Ancient Egyptians burned ambergris as incense, so it at least smells better than the inside of a pyramid.

A serving of eggs and ambergris was a favorite dish of King Charles II as well. That’s right — it’s edible, too! But a few people theorize a bad batch of it may have poisoned him, so just be careful.

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Herman Melville — perhaps the most famous collector of whale trivia — also wrote about sailors greedily harvesting ambergris in his famous novel Moby Dick.

But Gary and Angela had to be careful, as the trade of ambergris is illegal in some countries. The government of the United States, for example, banned even the possession of this precious substance.

They aren’t the only ones with these laws either. They’re part of wider restrictions on the hunting and exploitation of whales, many species of which are now endangered.

In other countries, like the United Kingdom, ambergris is legal. But it’s actually considered a waste product! Still, it’s incredibly rare to find, so any ambergris lying on the beach is a pretty big deal.

Gary and Angela required outside help to verify their find, so they shipped off their “pet rock” to experts in both France and New Zealand. They eagerly awaited the results.

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And they were right! The scientists confirmed that the substance was, in fact, ambergris, but they needed to study it a bit more to find out how much it was worth. You see, ambergris comes in different varieties based on its age and location.

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You can see the different stages of ambergris from the graphic below. But for Gary and Angela, the one thing that was for sure was that they were in for tens of thousands of dollars!