Is there such a thing as "swamp wax," and could this be it?
September 17, 2010 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Digging a hole last weekend, we found this. Help us figure out what it might be.

There's a vernal pond on my property and in dry summers (like this one), it dries up near the end of August. And, when it dries up, all the tadpoles, mud minnows and whatever else was hatched that spring gets concentrated into a one of a few low spots in the pond. The birds have a banquet, but eventually all the little amphibians and fish dry up and die.

This past weekend my sons & I decided to lower the floor on one of those low spots. We set out to dig it down, a foot or so to give next years amphibian babies more of a chance to make it until the pond starts to fill up again in the fall.

While we were digging, we came upon this. It kind of looked like a skull, but it doesn't appear to be bone. It's brittle, yet soft and very wax-like, a lot like tallow. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was wax.

I put a lighter to a bit of it this morning and it fired right up, sputtering and melting. It would go out when I removed the flame.

Waxified tallow?

Any ideas what it might be?
posted by bricksNmortar to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Truffle? Or just regular old mold?
posted by jeanmari at 7:35 AM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: follow up...

The place where we were digging was old, black, slimy peat... The object in question was more than foot down.

Where I live, it's not unheard of for people to find woolly mammoth skeletons when digging in old peat bogs. I don't believe what we found is any part of a woolly mammoth though, because we weren't very far down. But who knows, maybe it's fossilized mammoth fat?
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:50 AM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: Adipocere.
posted by orthogonality at 7:51 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does it have an odor? It could be a kind of ozokerite. Otherwise I agree with the adipocere suggestion.
posted by norm at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: I'm pretty convinced its adipocere. In fact, I think I know how it got there... About 12 years ago I shot a doe whitetail deer and buried the entrails in the area where I found the adipocere.

This site says it's edible, "Creme de la Corpse." I think I'm gonna pass.

Thanks for your help identifying this strange substance.
posted by bricksNmortar at 8:48 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

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