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Friday, 10 January 2014

A Load Of Old Crap

When you hear the term "Fossil Coprolite's", you may like me think that this is some sort of ancient sea urchin, or possibly a coral .... but of course its actually 'fossilized faeces' (Dinosaur Poo to you and me). The study of this particular type of fossil is a 'rich' (in many senses) source of information on the dietary and ecological conditions of the creature and its environment when it was passed (so to speak).

Dinodontosaurus (dicynodonts)

Recently a massive source of these fossils were uncovered in Argentina and are being investigated - thankfully they aren't literally as 'fresh as the day they dropped', but the information they contained was all captured when they were buried under volcanic ash and fossilized. They now look like rounded rocks, ranging in size from small pebbles to 40 cm diameter 'boulders', weighing several kilograms.

A Collection Of Dino Poo
 
The examples above all come from a mega-herbivore called a Dinodontosaurus (dicynodonts), which lived 240 million years ago, a crucial time in evolutionary history when the first mammals were also there, living alongside this rhino sized precursor to the much later dinosaurs, and which grazed in huge herds, defecating at favoured communal toilet spots.

Apparently this behaviour trait serves to mark out herd territories, helps stop the spread of parasites and diseases across their range, and warns potential predators that 'you are big, and backed up by many bros' .... this is a survival trait that similar creatures such as horses, and elephants, practise now. Which kinda proves that there’s nothing new, and the best solution is always evolved when faced with the same problems. Oddly Rhino's themselves, being solitary creatures don't practice this activity.

Now you might think that this kind of study would be restricted to Dinosaurs and possibly the later Mega-Fuana of the post dinosaur extinction era (when nature used mammals to try and recreate the lost Dinosaurs with giant creatures), but no, given the right conditions human coprolites can be, and are uncovered, only this time the fossilization is not quite as solid so to speak, and there are a lot more odours associated with the study. Human latrine pits have shall we say a certain fragrance or aroma which is sealed in with them, and which can be unearthed when they are reopened hundreds or thousands of years later.

I give as an example of this, the sewers and ancient public toilets of ancient Roman times - uncovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii, which are ripe, but the 'night soil' still contains the remains of the meals of the inhabitants of the apartment blocks from which the contributors lived. However more spectacularly from a sheer size and odour point of view, I cite the 'Viking' coprolite's uncovered in Jorvik (York), England, which tell us a lot about the diet, and that at least some of the 'Vikings' were very 'regular' in their regimes.

Jorvik Human Coprolite

Incidentally, on side note, the Jorvik latrines contained a number of bone carved combs, which indicate that both the men and the women were very interested in hair styling and grooming. Not really the image you immediately conjure up when thinking of hairy (and active) arsed Vikings.

4 comments:

  1. I imagine that Erik the viking would be amused to see his stool exhibited in a museum!
    I don't think that the bespectacled dinosaur, the Doyouthinkhesaurus, would see the irony.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He might not have been called Erik .... looking at its size he was possibly 'Wincing Wilfred!'

      Delete
  2. Manchester Museum of Science and Technology used to have an exhibit on the Victorian sewers, which included 'wafted smells' which was reliving the past LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't think of anything more disturbing than uncovering a 100 year old Victorian turd ..... fresh as the day it was laid.

      Thanks for the commnet.

      Delete

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