Dinosaur World

Monday, July 27, 2009

dino poo?

We have many unique fossils at Dinosaur World. Most are housed in our Prehistoric Museum. One of the most "fun" fossils we have is coprolite or as my blog title hints toward - fossilized dinosaur dung.

Coprolite (meaning "dung stone") is fossilized feces (animal waste). And no, coprolite does not smell bad - it had undergone a fossilization process. A close examination can help determine whether a specimen is a coprolite or just a rock. If the specimen contains fossilized bits of crushed and partly-digested organic material, it is not a rock, but a fossil.

Coprolites record the diet, feeding behavior, and habitat of prehistoric animals. Paleontologists can study the contents of a coprolite to see what one meal of an animal consisted of. For example, if the coprolite consists of partially digested plant material (leaves, seeds, bark, roots), the animal in question was probably an herbivore (plant-eater); if the coprolite contains bits of animal material (crushed bits of bones, sinew, claws), the animal in question was a carnivore (meat-eater).

Information about the plants and animals in the coprolite can tell you about the animal that produced the coprolite. For example, if bits of a swamp-dwelling creature were in the coprolite (eaten by the carnivore), then the carnivore probably also lived near a swamp. Also, if the bones in the coprolite are from a juvenile of a species, you know what a prey animal of the carnivore was. By examining the contents of the coprolite, you can also determine if the animal chewed its food, or wolfed it down, letting stomach acids and/or gastroliths (stomach stones) digest the food.

It is very difficult (usually impossible) to determine which animal produced the coprolite. You can perhaps tell what animal it came from if you find the coprolite in a bone bed (a fossil site in which many skeletons of the same animal are found). Otherwise, it would be very hard (practically impossible) to tell which genus it came from.

Coprolite comes in many shapes and sizes (depending on the animal it came from). Its color depends on the type of soil and minerals in which it was buried (this determines which minerals were absorbed/replaced in the specimen). Coprolites from many animals have been found, including dinosaurs. Dinosaur coprolites up to 16 inches in diameter have been found.

1 comment:

  1. i have found something my dog bought in and my step dad is convinced it is dinosaur poo
    how can you tell if it is not just another rock