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Earth Science

Getting the Dirt On Ancient Life With Coprolites 51

the_newsbeagle writes "Paleoscatologist Karen Chin knows you can learn a lot about ancient ecosystems by studying coprolites — fossilized feces. She has studied dino droppings from herbivores, and identified the types of plants those dinosaurs ate. She has identified T. rex turds, and found evidence that prehistoric dung beetles made use of those king-sized dino patties. This profile of Chin goes through her greatest hits, then focuses on her latest work, which sheds light on the reemergence of life after the K-Pg extinction event that brought down the dinosaurs... but left some surprising creatures unscathed."
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Getting the Dirt On Ancient Life With Coprolites

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  • Poop thread! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @01:39AM (#45446797)

    ...and our distant descendants will gain the most accurate picture of us from our landfills, if we haven't already mined them out.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When one is dedicated, even research done on poop can yield amazing results !

      On the other hand, when one lacks dedication, even with the most advance gadgets one still can't accomplish anything

      Dr. Chin is of the former, and unfortunately, too many of the young uns are of the latter

    • Most of us don't put poop in the land fill. That's what the sewage system is for. Of course, archeologists thousands of years from now will probably look at the dog poop, cat poop and diapers in the land fill and wonder just what the hell was going on.

      I really feel sorry for them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They will be able to figure out that dogs like to eat cat poop, at least in this century.

      • by flyneye ( 84093 )

        Actually landfill digging would be a wonderful exercise for an archaeology class. It would provide a good sharpening of their forensics and teach them to be careful,(watch out for that glass,razor blades, sharps etc) be aware of their environment (lookout! Gull attack!) and sharpen deduction skills (what is this fluid in this balloon-like structure?).

      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        Actually in a lot of areas you do, at least it's done for you. In may places sewerage solids can be used for fertilizer, but in areas where the heavy metal or other contamination is too high, or there's just no demand, it ends up in the landfill.

      • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

        Actually a lot of the extracted solids are shipped off to landfills. In most sewage treatment systems the first step is a settling tank that allows the heavier solids (sludge) to sink to the bottom where a screw then lifts them out. The solids (toilet paper, feces etc.) is then dewatered and shipped to landfills. I am familiar with the NYC DEP system as a family friend works for them. Some plants do not dewater their own solids and have to ship them by a DEP barge to other plants which do. One such plant is

    • ...and our distant descendants will gain the most accurate picture of us from our landfills, if we haven't already mined them out.

      Sure, on our eating habits - Garbage in. But what if "garbage in = garbage out" doesn't hold true in the future?

      Or what if they use our landfill as fossil fuel (wouldn't that be ironic)?

      • by flyneye ( 84093 )

        "But what if "garbage in = garbage out" doesn't hold true in the future? "

                  Introducing a new line of USED FOOD STORES!
        Where there's always a sale on corn...

    • by Sique ( 173459 )
      We do already from our ancestors. Old landfills are a bonanza for archaeologists. You only throw things on a landfill you have used before, and in the end, about 99% of all the things we ever made land in a landfill. A landfill is thus a concentrated overview of what we use, and how much of it we use. (And the dustbins of your enemy's premises are a goldmine for spy agencies. The real ones. Not the ones that just pile up large databases of every bit you send).
    • Assuming we have distance descendants, that is. The man who did not invent the internet but played a small role by voting for the funding of an ARPANET project ages ago says our species might not last another 100 years, would by mighty inconvenient, if true, of course.
    • A good deal of the steel we use in our modern civilization comes from ore produced by a singular event of some 2 billion years ago. The amount of oxygen in the atmosphere and ocean had increased to a level that all the Iron that had been in solution suddenly rusted out of sea water and settled out eventually becoming the worldwide distribution of ironstone deposits from that age.

      In a few million years, our age will be marked by regions of very rusty deposits scattered about the continents. If you have se

  • s/dirt/poop/

    What kind of editor would miss that opportunity?

  • by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @02:55AM (#45447003) Journal

    It's turtle poop all the way down.

    • by flyneye ( 84093 )

      Oh you ran into the Nintendo strata! You might find plumbers poop too. Everytime they got turtle bit...OH SHIT!

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @08:36AM (#45447745) Homepage Journal

    This profile of Chin goes through her greatest shits


  • These here coproliths in fact can be polished and made to shine. I bet someone's already got a line of coprolitic jewelry.

  • Coproliths make a great gift for kids. They are cheap to get on eBay or whatever, and they are as educational as can be. And as fun as a turd can be !
    • by clovis ( 4684 ) *

      And you can make them yourself! Keep in mind that kids always want the most recent version of anything.

  • I wonder if she starts out any of her "coprolite 101" classes with "This is a coprolite, it's fossilized dung. You may think it's just old shit but it's my bread and butter."

    (I knew a Parasitologist who started his first lecture of his course somewhat like that.)

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson