Friday, December 27, 2013

What is Coprolite?

Coprolite in its natural state, looks like poop!

You learn something new every day. Today’s lesson…coprolite is actually dinosaur feces. Coprolite is fossilized dinosaur dung, but it doesn’t smell. Over millions of years the poop from a dinosaur becomes a fossil. Like most fossils, the dung changes composition when it converts into other compounds such as silicates and calcium carbonates. The end result is a stone. You’re probably wondering why I mention coprolite, it’s because people make jewelry out of it.


You can cut it into beads and polish it to make a bracelet
I’m not sure if people who buy coprolite jewelry know its dinosaur poop, or maybe they do and want to have an interesting conversation piece. The funny thing is many coprolite stones are quite attractive when the stone is cut into pieces and polished. Like many naturally occurring transformations there are fascinating patterns that form when the feces is converted from its organic state into a fossil.

Coprolite cross section, what pretty colors inside

Using granite as an example, you can see swirls, veins and other patterns which are similar in coprolite. Unlike granite, both digested and undigested bits of food are what make the interesting colors and patterns as the dung converts during fossilization. There are even large enough pieces that show distinctive fossilization so you know what the dinosaur has eaten, even fish bones. This is how paleontologist discerned which dinosaurs were carnivores and which were herbivores.


Cut into shapes, it polished quite nicely
Like any other naturally occurring stone or gem someone found it pretty and decided to cut a piece to fit jewelry and polished it till it shone. The examples I’ve seen of coprolite jewelry are quite attractive and if you didn’t know it was dinosaur poop you would probably be pretty impressed. Come to think of it, the fact that something that is so pretty now and was formerly poop is quite impressive. Just goes to show you, if you hang on to anything long enough it will become worth something, even poop.
A coprolite ring makes an interesting conversation piece

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