From natural processes of the digestive track,
dinosaurs have left us with one more valuable clue into their world and
that is coprolites. Coprolites is the fossilized fecal matter of
dinosaurs. It can come in many shapes and sizes and can tell us allot
about the animals diet and environment. From looking at the morphology
of the feces one can make an assessment to what type of animal left the
feces. For example, sharks have intestines which are spiraled and
thus a spiraled feces is left behind.
The diet can be assessed by looking at the morphology and the mineral content
as well. Herbivorous creatures have coprolites which vary in size
and make up a series of droppings and show fossils of plant material.
Carnivorous creatures have coprolites which are usually large and elongate
and show fossils of bone material.
Sauropod coprolite; Morrison Formation Eastern Utah
|The preservation of coprolites varies with the conditions present
at the time of burial and who the feces was produced by. Feces from
a carnivorous dinosaur is more likely to be fossilized because it contains
more mineral content e.g.. calcium phosphate which can help with
fossilization. Also the fecal deposit form the carnivore is more
or less just waste material and is less susceptible to scavenging.
Feces from herbivorous dinosaurs is less likely to be preserved because
of its high concentration in partially digested plant material. This
material is highly susceptible to decomposition and scavenging. The
best way for preservation is that the fecal matter partially dries and
then is quickly buried.