Coprolite Fossil Rock Professor Image

Most coprolites are composed chiefly of calcium phosphate, along with minor quantities of organic matter.  Coprolite is a variety of phosphorite (which is a variety of apatite).  Coprolite deposits range in age from the Cambrian period to recent times.  Coprolite's color depends on the type of soil and minerals in which it was buried.

COPROLITES are the fossilized droppings of ancient creatures. The name translates as "dung stone" from the Greek words "kopros" meaning "dung" and "lithos" meanings "stone." To the eye of the observer, many of these fossils look as if they were dropped yesterday, but fortunately the original material has been replaced with minerals and there is no smell.

Coprolites are trace fossils as opposed to body fossils, in that they are not part of the body of the creature that left them. Other examples of trace fossils are foot prints and burrows. Since coprolites often contain plant material or remains of other creatures, they are important to scientists as they record the diet, feeding behavior and habitat of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.

In 19th century England, coprolites were mined on an industrial scale for use as fertilizer due to their high phosphate content.

Many of the coprolites on this Website come from the Eocene period (35-55 million years ago) and were dropped by turtles or sloths.