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Hunt et al., 2012c

Vertebrate coprolite studies: summary and prospectus

Hunt, A. P., Milàn, J., Lucas, S. G., Spielmann, J. A.
BookVertebrate Coprolites
Editor(s)Hunt, A. P., Milàn, J., Lucas, S. G., Spielmann, J. A.
JournalNew Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science Bulletin
Typearticle in journal


The history of study of vertebrate coprolites can be divided into four phases: (1) 1800-1890 – initial studies; (2) 1890-1910 – first bloom; (3) 1910-1950 – intermittent work; (4) 1950-1990 – maturing science (in archeology and Pleistocene coprolite studies); and (5) 1990 to present – maturing science (study of pre-Pleistocene coprolites). The oldest putative vertebrate coprolites are Ordovician in age. Few Silurian coprolites have been described, and some large coprolites of this age have been ascribed to eurypterids. Devonian coprolites are common, but poorly described. Mississippian vertebrate coprolites have been minimally studied, but they probably represent the first relatively abundant coprofaunas. Several Pennsylvanian coprofaunas have been described. The Permo-Triassic seems to be an acme zone for coprolites as a result of their abundance in redbeds. Jurassic coprolites are locally common, but few have been described, with the notable exception of those from the Lias of England. Cretaceous coprolites and Tertiary coprolites are common. Many nonmarine Pleistocene coprolites derive from caves. Prominent misconceptions about coprolites include: (1) they are rare; (2) their morphology is too variable to allow a parataxonomy; (3) they have poor preservation potential; (4) they cannot be reworked; (5) all feces have equal chances of preservation; and (6) bromalites are of little scientific importance. Seven strategies for advancing the study of vertebrate coprolites are: (1) communicate that coprolites are common and useful; (2) describe more coproassemblages; (3) conduct more actualistic studies; (4) name additional valid ichnotaxa; (5) expand the breadth of study to include non-coprolite bromalites; (6) document coprolites in time and space; (7) conduct interdisciplinary studies involving Pleistocene, pre-Pleistocene and human coprolites; and (8) incorporate coprolites into ichnofaunal studies.

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