Is this really a fossil?

When excavating at Carmel Church, it’s pretty common to find nondescript things like the one above, that look like, well, rocks.

But when these things are broken, they have an entirely different appearance on the inside…

This actually is a fossil, and is known as a coprolite. Coprolites, to put it delicately, are fossil feces. Certain organisms have diets that include a lot of indigestible matter, which is passed along into the poo (I couldn’t stay with delicate; many paleontologists practically live in the gutter.) If material is difficult to digest, it usually fossilizes well. In the case of Carmel Church, the coprolites probably contain lots of fragments of fish bones.

Sometimes a coprolite leaves no doubt as to the diet. This small coprolite from Carmel Church looks much like any other coprolite…

…but when viewed up close an entire small fish vertebra can be seen sticking out.

Always chew your food thoroughly!

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4 Responses to Is this really a fossil?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Especially if you have diverticulosis!!!!!!

  2. Alton Dooley says:

    I forgot to mention that the coprolite at the top of the page, at 9 cm in length, is the largest one we’ve found at Carmel Church. Typically the ones we find are only about 3 cm long.

  3. Coprolites says:

    Whoa that’s a whopper of a turd! Seriously though, I assume the above pictures are shark coprolites? Have crocodile or other animal coprolites been found at Carmel Church?

  4. Alton Dooley says:

    Most of the Carmel Church coprolites appear to be from sharks, judging from the small amount of published material available. However, the Carmel Church specimens fall into to distinct groups. The vast majority are like the small one shown above (with the fish vertebra); they are regular spirals around the coprolite’s long axis. I believe these are from sharks. The other type we get (like the one at the top of this page) are much larger, much rarer, and have a less organized internal structure. I’m not sure what kind of animal they come from, but crocodiles are a possibility; Thecachampsa is known from Carmel Church, based on teeth, vertebrae, and armor plates.

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