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Title: Coprolite  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: William Buckland, Ichthyosaur, Paleofeces, Fossil, British Agricultural Revolution
Collection: Feces, Trace Fossils
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A coprolite of a carnivorous dinosaur found in southwestern Saskatchewan. Photo by Karen Chin of the USGS.
A large Miocene coprolite from South Carolina, USA.
A large coprolite (fossilized feces) from South Carolina, USA.
Age: White River Oligocene; Location: Northwest Nebraska; Dimensions: Varies (25mm X 20mm); Weight: 8-10g; Features: Many small inclusions and one has a complete toe bone from a small deer called a leptomeryx.

A coprolite is

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  1. ^
  2. ^ Poinar, H. N., S. Fiedel, C. E. King, A. M. Devault, K. Bos, M. Kuch, and R. Debruyne1 ; 2009 Comment on “DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America.” Science 325(5937):148. ; P. Goldberg, F. Berna and R.I. Macphail ; 2009 Comment on “DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America.” Science 325(5937): 148. ; Gilbert, T., D. L. Jenkins, A. Götherstrom, N. Naveran, J. J. Sanchez, M. Hofreiter, P. F. Thomsen, J. Binladen, T. F.G. Higham, R. M. Yohe II, R. Parr, L. S. Cummings, E Willerslev ; 2008 DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America. Science. 320(5877):786-789.
  3. ^ Rudwick, Martin Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform pp. 154-155.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Trimley St Martin and the Coprolite Mining Rush, Beridge Eve, 2004
  8. ^ (Corpolites in ) Kirton, Suffolk
  9. ^ a b The Origins and Development of the British Coprolite Industry, Bernard O O'connor, The Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, Vol 14, No. 5, Summer 2001
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^
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See also

In 1842 the Rev John Stevens Henslow, a professor of Botany at St John's College, Cambridge, discovered coprolites just outside Felixstowe in Suffolk in the villages of Trimley St Martin,[7] Falkenham and Kirton[8] and investigated their composition. Realising their potential as a source of available phosphate once they had been treated with sulphuric acid, he patented an extraction process and set about finding new sources.[9] Very soon, coprolites were being mined on an industrial scale for use as fertiliser due to their high phosphate content. The major area of extraction occurred over the east of England, centred on Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely[10][11] with its refining being carried out in Ipswich by the Fison Company.[11] There is a Coprolite Street near Ipswich docks where the Fisons works once stood.[12] The industry declined in the 1880s[11][13] but was revived briefly during the First World War to provide phosphates for munitions.[10] A renewed interest in coprolite mining in the First World War extended the area of interest into parts of Buckinghamshire as far west as Woburn Sands.[9]

Coprolite mining

Some marine deposits contain a high proportion of fecal remains. However, animal excrement is easily fragmented and destroyed, so usually has little chance of becoming fossilized.

Coprolites have been recorded in deposits ranging in age from the Cambrian period to recent times and are found worldwide. Some of them are useful as index fossils, such as Favreina from the Jurassic period of Haute-Savoie in France.

The recognition of coprolites is aided by their structural patterns, such as spiral or annular markings, by their content, such as undigested food fragments, and by associated fossil remains. The smallest coprolites are often difficult to distinguish from inorganic pellets or from eggs. Most coprolites are composed chiefly of calcium matter. By analyzing coprolites, it is possible to infer the diet of the animal which produced them.

A Miocene pseudocoprolite from Washington state. Commonly mistaken for coprolites because of their appearance and shape; they are actually of inorganic origin. Scale in mm. See Spencer (1993).

Recognizing coprolites

By examining coprolites, paleontologists are able to find information about the diet of the animal (if bones or other food remains are present), such as whether it was a herbivorous or carnivorous, and the taphonomy of the coprolites, although the producer is rarely identified unambiguously, especially with more ancient examples.[4] In one example these fossils can be analyzed for certain minerals that are known to exist in trace amounts in certain species of plant that can still be detected millions of years later.[5] In another example, the existence of human proteins in coprolites can be used to pinpoint the existence of cannibalistic behavior in an ancient culture.[6] Parasite remains found in human and animal coprolites have also shed new light on questions of human migratory patterns, the diseases which plagued ancient civilizations, and animal domestication practices in the past (see archaeoparasitology and paleoparasitology).

Research value

The fossil hunter Mary Anning had noticed that "bezoar stones" were often found in the abdominal region of ichthyosaur skeletons found in the Lias formation at Lyme Regis. She also noted that if such stones were broken open they often contained fossilized fish bones and scales as well as sometimes bones from smaller ichthyosaurs. It was these observations by Anning that led the geologist William Buckland to propose in 1829 that the stones were fossilized feces and named them coprolites. Buckland also suspected that the spiral markings on the fossils indicated that ichthyosaurs had spiral ridges in their intestines similar to those of modern sharks, and that some of these coprolites were black with ink from swallowed belemnites.[3]

Initial discovery


  • Initial discovery 1
  • Research value 2
  • Recognizing coprolites 3
  • Coprolite mining 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7

, erosions caused by evacuation of liquid wastes and nonliquid urinary secretions. urolites In the same context, there are the [2] Coprolites, distinct from

Coprolites may range in size from a few millimetres to over 60 centimetres. [1]

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