Scientists Say: Coprolite

Even poop can become a fossil


This isn’t an ordinary rock. It’s a fossilized chunk of poop. 

United States Geological Survey

Coprolite (noun, “KOPE-ruh-lyte”)

Fossilized feces. If an animal poops in the right place, its feces can be quickly buried. Over many years, minerals gradually replace the turd, turning the animal waste into rock — a coprolite. Scientists study coprolites to figure out what and how much ancient animals ate.

In a sentence

A coprolite from a meat-eating dinosaur showed it was a real bone-crusher. The big bruiser’s poop was up to 50 percent bone.

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Power Words

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coprolite  Fossilized feces. The word coprolite, in Greek, means “dung stones.” Coprolites are very important because they can provide direct evidence of what ancient creatures ate.

fossil  Any preserved remains or traces of ancient life. There are many different types of fossils: The bones and other body parts of dinosaurs are called “body fossils.” Things like footprints are called “trace fossils.” Even specimens of dinosaur poop are fossils. The process of forming fossils is called fossilization.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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