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What is Coprolite?

Coprolite is fossilized poop. That's right. Poop. The term was coined by William Buckland in 1829 for lumps of Mary Anning-discovered fossil whatsit from the Lias of Lyme Regis that until this point were assumed to be pine cones. Being renowned as something of a weirdo, at least to outsiders, coprolites were right up Buckland's alley. In fact, he became infatuated, and had a load of them sawed up and inlaid into a table top. Unsuprisingly, palaeontologists haven't exactly been queuing up to study them since, but Dr. Karen Chin, curator of paleontology at the University of Colorado Museum, is currently right at the business end of "dung stones" ... so to speak. We're sure she will understand if you don't want to shake her hand.

Apparently, coprolites have a high calcium phosphate content which helps mineralize feces. That's why shit from carnivores is more common. It's all the bone munching, you see? Herbivore poop has to find phosphate from other sources (such as marine sediments) or it just won't fossilize.

You can tell a lot from dinosaur dung. Paleontologists can even tell which kind of grasses sauropods ate. Tyrannosaurus rex, the Tyrant lizard king, may also be king of the coprolite, as a 7kg turd found in Saskatchewan by Wendy Sloboda in 1998 which contains shards of bone from another dinosaur has been attributed to Late Cretaceous North America's apex predator. Shards of bone. Can you imagine?
Etymology
The term Coprolite is derived from the Greek "kopros" (dung) and "lithos" (stone).
Further reading
• Hantzschel W. (1968) "Coprolites an Annotated Bibliography".
• Le Loeuff J. "Magic fossils - on the use of Triassic coprolites as talismans and medicine in South East Asia".
• Chin K, Tokaryk T.T., Erickson G.M. and Calk L.C. (1998) "A king-sized theropod coprolite".
• Vandana Prasad, Caroline A. E. Strömberg, Habib Alimohammadian, Ashok Sahni (2005) "Dinosaur Coprolites and the Early Evolution of Grasses and Grazers". Science 310, 1177 (2005). DOI: 10.1126/science.1118806.
• Gunter NL, Weir TA, Slipinksi A, Bocak L, Cameron SL (2016) "If Dung Beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) arose in association with dinosaurs, did they also suffer a mass co-extinction at the K-Pg Boundary?" PLoS ONE 11(5): e0153570. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153570
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "DinoChecker FAQ entry :: What is Coprolite?"
http://www.dinochecker.com/dinosaurfaqs/what-is-coprolite›. Web access: 24th Nov 2017.
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