Mystery Object from Everything Dinosaur
Every now and then we like to tease our readers by showing them a photograph of an object from our fossil collection. Having written about the Very Reverend Dr. William Buckland yesterday, the 155th anniversary of the death of this English geologist and academic – we thought we would put up this picture.
A Mystery Object – What is This?
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
The ruler in the picture provides a scale – any ideas?
This is an example of a coprolite, very similar to ones that William Buckland studied so intently as this is a coprolite from an Ichthyosaur, (fossil found near Weymouth on the English south coast). The famous fossil collector at Lyme Regis – Mary Anning had described a number of strange, stony objects that were often found in the body cavities of Ichthyosaur fossil skeletons. These were known as “Bezoar Stones”, but no one was really sure what they represented. It was Anning who noticed that if such stones were examined carefully and even broken apart they contained strange, blackend fragments. These turned out to be the hard parts of Belemnites and other squid, such as hooks and mouth parts, plus the occasional fish scale fragment
These observations by Anning lead William Buckland to propose in 1829 that the stones were fossilized faeces and the term coprolite was first used to describe them. The term coprolite has come to mean the general name for all fossilized faeces. Buckland also concluded that the spiral markings on the fossils indicated that Ichthyosaurs had spiral ridges in their intestines similar to those of extant sharks. He also postulated that some of these coprolites were black because the Ichthyosaur that has produced them had ingested ink sacs from Belemnites.
In the picture above, in the left segment of the object a number of black fragments can be made out. When examined using a folding 10x magnifying glass it can be seen that these black objects are indeed hooks, fish scales and beak parts of animals that an Ichthyosaur consumed. These materials represent the indigestible remains of animals eaten by a Jurassic Ichthyosaur.