Vertebrate coprolites (fossil faeces): An underexplored Konservat-Lagerstatte
2016 (English)In: Earth-Science Reviews, ISSN 0012-8252, E-ISSN 1872-6828, Vol. 162, 44-57 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Fossilized soft tissues of animals (e.g. muscles, hair and feathers) are valuable sources of palaeobiological information, but a poor preservation potential makes them undesirably scarce in the fossil record. The aim of this review is to summarize main findings, current progress and the analytical constraints of detecting fossilized soft tissues in coprolites from, mainly, freshwater and terrestrial carnivorous vertebrates. We conclude that soft-tissue inclusions in coprolites are sources of two important lines of information: the fossils can be put in a direct palaeoecological context, and characters of extinct taxa are more likely preserved in the phosphate-rich taphonomic microenvironment of coprolites than elsewhere. As a result, it is possible to unravel the deep-time origins of host-parasite relations, to understand ancient trophic food webs and detect new soft-tissue characters of different animal groups. Examples of the latter include muscle tissues from a tyrannosaurid prey, tapeworm eggs (including a developing embryo) in a Permian shark coprolite, as well as hair from multituberculates and, probably, from stem-mammals (Therapsids). Additionally, the use of coprolites in an archaeological context is briefly reviewed with focus on key aspects that may become implemented in studies of pre-Quaternary specimens as well. In summary, there is a wide range of information that can be extracted from coprolites, which has not yet been fully explored in palaeontological studies.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 162, 44-57 p.
Coprolites, Soft tissues, Lagerstatten, Phosphatization, Conservation traps, Palaeoecology
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary Evolutionary Biology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-311769DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2016.08.014ISI: 000388776700003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-311769DiVA: diva2:1061360
FunderKnut and Alice Wallenberg FoundationSwedish Research Council, 2014-4367