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Coprolite a parting gift

Updated on April 16, 2010


Coprolite is excrement that was dropped a long time ago. Over the passage of time it has become fossilised. Any creature that ever ate has passed faeces of sorts and so there is an awful lot of it out there. It has even been commercially mined in quantities for the phosphate industry. It comes in all shapes, sizes and colours but to be sure it is sterile and has no odour whatsoever. The name Coprolite means 'dung stone' which is exactly what it is.

We have been able to learn a lot about extinct species by the study of coprolites and the plant, animal or parasites they contain. They are a mine of information which allows palaentologists to tell what animals ate and therefore build up a picture of ancient terrains, vegetation, migratory patterns and climate. It is in coprolites that the best sources of ancient DNA is recovered.

Pliocene Coprolite and sign

Photo By:  Fossilised Sealion Poop
Photo By: Fossilised Sealion Poop

The discovery and dating of a human coprolite found in North America has shown that there were people there some 18,500 years ago. Another of these dung finds from 12,300 years ago showed two different sources of DNA.which had direct relationship to modern Native Americans.

Coprolites have been recovered in a variety of sizes, from that produced by worms and sea slugs up to a two foot long turd produced by a Tyrannosaurid. Distinctive patterns in ancient Doo have shown that dung beetles were busy clearing up after the dinosaurs.


Dino Dumps

A Dirty Ditty

Approach, approach, ingenuous youth,
And learn this fundamental truth
The noble science of Geology
is bottomed firmly on Coprology.

John Shute Duncan - Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum 1823-1629

Photo By:  The dinosaur on the sign refers to coprolite mining in Cambridgeshire in the 19th Century.
Photo By: The dinosaur on the sign refers to coprolite mining in Cambridgeshire in the 19th Century.

A Parting Gift

Coprolites, despite their source can be both attractive and fascinating. Certainly a conversation piece and a truly original paper weight. In short they make an unusual and inexpensive gift.

Who would you want to give a load of old poop to? 

An address to remember


Submit a Comment
  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    tom birke - I doubt it...but who knows with the sophisticated equipment that scientists have access to today.

  • profile image

    tom birke 

    8 years ago

    Do Dino Coprolites ever emit any odor?

  • Mountain Blossoms profile image

    Marianne Kellow 

    9 years ago from SE Thailand

    Coprolite, what a wonderful word! Conjures up all sorts of doo doos. Shades of Phil Harding and the Time Team here Peter! Good to follow up. Enjoyed it.


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