A coprolite or coprolith is a type of trace fossil formed from feces. The word coprolite comes from the Ancient Greek word κόπρος (kopros) meaning dung and λίθος (lithos) meaning stone. The word was coined in 1829 by no less than William Buckland, the man who ‘discovered’ and systematically named the first dinosaur, the Megalosaur. Buckland was aided by Mary Anning, a self-taught paleontologist who sold fossils as part of a family business. Mary would spend winters scouring the cliffs of Southern England around her home in Dorset, risking her life as the cliffs would often collapse, once even killing her dog. Mary is credited with the discovery of the first icthyosaur, a find she made while collecting with her brother when she was only 12 years old. It was her collection of coprolites that led Buckland to his identification as feces. Coprolites are important trace fossils as they allow scientists to glimpse at the diets of ancient creatures. Finally, Happy Birthday do William Buckland, born on March 12, 1784! Your fascination with dinosaur poop has earned your place in history!
Image of Great White Shark coprolite from Miocene Era and yucky orange poopy coprolites both courtesy James St. John; Box of poop courtesy Paul Williams; flattened poop coprolite courtesy paleo-bear, all used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.