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Analyses of Coprolites Produced by Carnivorous Vertebrates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2017

Karen Chin*
Affiliation:
Museum of Natural History/Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, UCB 265, Boulder, Colorado 80309 USA
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Abstract

The fossil record contains far more coprolites produced by carnivorous animals than by herbivores. This inequity reflects the fact that feces generated by diets of flesh and bone (and other skeletal materials) contain chemical constituents that may precipitate out under certain conditions as permineralizing phosphates. Thus, although coprolites are usually less common than fossil bones, they provide a significant source of information about ancient patterns of predation. The identity of a coprolite producer often remains unresolved, but fossil feces can provide new perspectives on prey selection patterns, digestive efficiency, and the occurrence of previously unknown taxa in a paleoecosystem. Dietary residues are often embedded in the interior of coprolites, but much can be learned from analyses of intact specimens. When ample material is available, however, destructive analyses such as petrography or coprolite dissolution may be used to extract additional paleobiological information.

Type
Section I: Methods
Copyright
Copyright © 2002 by The Paleontological Society 

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