Paleontologists and fossil collectors use a variety of methods to identify coprolites, including examining their shape and size, surface texture, contents/inclusions, and the location where they were discovered. By analyzing these characteristics, as well as conducting chemical and microscopic analysis, one can determine the origin and composition of coprolites and gain a better understanding of the lives of prehistoric creatures.
Coprolites can vary in shape and size depending on the animal that produced them. They can be cylindrical, spherical, or irregular in shape, and can range in size from .03 inches (1 mm) to 7 inches (18 cm) in diameter, and can be over 26 inches (66 cm) in length.
Coprolites may have invertebrate burrows, or traces where insects ate, slept, and lived. They can have a rough or smooth surface texture, depending on the composition of the feces and the conditions under which they were fossilized.
Coprolites may contain fragments of undigested food, such as bone, shell, teeth, and plant material.
Coprolites are often found in sedimentary rocks, such as limestone or shale, and are frequently associated with other fossil remains, such as bones or footprints.
Chemical and microscopic analysis may be needed to determine its origin and composition. Many coprolites have high levels of phosphate and calcium.
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