What are coprolites?
Coprolites are the fossilized droppings, or feces, of dinosaurs. Because of the soft nature of this fecal material, dinosaur droppings would often disintegrate before they had a chance to fossilize. If they dropped in the “wrong” place, such as ocean shore where the waves would wash the material away, the chances of the dung becoming fossilized were almost nonexistent.
The shapes and sizes of most coprolites are not readily distinguishable between animals. Thus, there are, at present, few coprolites unequivocally traced back to dinosaurs, but the ones that have been identified offer tantalizing clues to dinosaur diets. In particular, such coprolites give us an insight into what the animal was eating, how it ate, and what happened later in terms of digestion.
The preservation and subsequent fossilization of coprolites depended on a number of factors, including the organic content and amount of water present in the deposited feces. It also included, of course, where the animal dropped the feces and the method of burial—all keys to the formation of coprolites.
The feces of carnivorous dinosaurs were more likely to become fossilized than those of the herbivores because of their higher mineral content. These minerals were from bits of bone within the feces; in other words, from the consumption of other animals.