Coprolites of Late Triassic carnivorous vertebrates from Poland: An integrative approach
Zatoń et al
Vertebrate coprolites derived from Upper Triassic terrestrial deposits of southern Poland have been subjected to various analytical methods in order to retrieve information about their composition, producer’s diet and nature of the microscopic structures preserved in the groundmass. Morphologically, the coprolites have been classified into four morphotypes, of which only three were further analysed due to their good state of preservation. Their groundmass are composed of francolite, a carbonate-rich apatite, in which abundant coccoid structures are preserved. Based on various microscopic and organic geochemical techniques, they are interpreted as fossilized bacteria which could have mediated the phosphatization of the faeces. The thin sectioning revealed that the coprolites consist of those containing exclusively bone remains, and those preserving both bone and plant remains. Those coprolites preserving only vertebrate remains are suggestive for exclusive carnivorous diet of the producers. However, the interpretation of coprolites consisting of both vertebrate and plant remains is more debatable. Although they may attest to omnivory, it cannot be excluded that potential producers were carnivorous and occasionally ingested plants, or accidentally swallowed plant material during feeding. The latter may involve predation or scavenging upon other herbivorous animals. The potential producers may have been animals that foraged in or near aquatic habitats, such as semi-aquatic archosaurs and/or temnospondyls. This is supported by the presence of ostracode and other aquatic arthropod remains, and fish scales within the coprolites, as well as by the presence of specific biomarkers such as phytanic and pristanic acids, which are characteristic constituents of fish oil. The preservation of such labile organic compounds as sterols, palmitin, stearin or levoglucosan attests for rapid, microbially-mediated mineralization of the faeces at very early stages of diagenesis.