Geology, Paleontology and Faeces

“The study of coprolites turned into something of a craze. Suddenly an intriguing new perspective of previously misidentified fossil objects had opened up. Those interested in chemistry published analyses of the composition of coprolites; among them were Daubeny, Prout, and Wollaston. Others made comparative observations of the faeces of fish and reptiles, and how they void their excrement. One correspondent admiringly called Buckland ‘the greatest discoverer of the pre-eminent age of discovery’.”

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“Coprolites are arranged in a spiral whorl around a central axis; in addition their surface may show what looks like the impression of a vascular structure. The intestines of dog-fish and shark have their inside surface enlarged by a spiral valve which wind around the interior. . . . Buckland described coprolitic substances from as early as the Carboniferous age right up to modern guano.”

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“The picture centers around a number of ichhtyosaurs and plesiosaurs, but it also depicts pterodactyls, cycadeoideae, ammonites, etc. The animals are involved in various activities, fight hunting, eating, or defecating.”

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“Coprolites were an easy target for jest.”

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