Image: Megan Lomax
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: I heard about a specimen of dinosaur poo, or coprolite, on display in the Museum and I have some rocks that I think might also be coprolites – can you tell me what they are?
Answer: Your specimens were referred to one of the curators working on the redevelopment of the Science & Life Gallery who was responsible for sourcing Melbourne Museum’s coprolite specimen. He has examined your specimens and compared them to the Museum’s specimen, and has concluded that unfortunately your specimens do not display the characteristics common to dinosaur coprolites.
The absence of very specific information on the original location, age and setting in which your specimens were found makes it very difficult to provide an identification for your material.
This, when combined with the fact that there is an absence of any visible partially digested matter and the general appearance of your material, makes it unlikely that it represents coprolite material.
In sourcing the dinosaur coprolite material that is on display in the recently launched Dinosaur Walk exhibition (the first of the four new exhibitions that will complete the redevelopment of the Science & Life Gallery at Melbourne Museum), curators undertook research to verify the provenance of the material – that is, in order to say this material was a coprolite, they needed to be sure of the age of the material, the composition of the material, the particular geographic and geological setting where the material was collected, and also what other institutions have acquired this type of material. The absence of this information with your material makes the identification of your material as dinosaur coprolites, or coprolites in general, unlikely.
Given this, your specimens were also examined by the Senior Collection Manager for Mineralogy who suspects that the material is a concretion of carbonates - a compact aggregate of mineral matter (in this case, carbonates) found in a host rock which usually has a different composition.