Fossilized dinosaur poop contains new insect species

Learning about ancient animals is difficult. Fossilization is a rare event, possible only under very limited conditions. Preservation inside the amber resin, as shown in the movie Jurassic Park, is also rare, especially for species older than 140 million years.

Today, in an astonishing discovery, a group of paleontologists discovered a previously unknown insect species in the fossilized feces of a Triassic era dinosaur. Their findings were published inCurrent biology.

Hidden treasures inside the coprolites

view of nearly complete specimens of Triamyxa coprolothic found in coprolitesQvarnstro ̈m et al, Current Biology)

Coprolites are fossilized feces and are often an excellent source of information about the life and diet of ancient animals. Like other types of fossils, they are rare.

The coprolites described in this study were found in Poland and contained almost complete casts (including legs and antennae) of a previously unknown species, dubbed Triamyxa coprolithica by researchers. A kind of beetle, the insect is part of a new family, Triamyxidae. The insects’ small size and sclerotic bodies likely protected them from the digestive system of the dinosaur that ate them, so we can learn more today.

The discovery has excited paleontologists, who have gone so far as to suggest that coprolites may be the “new amber” when it comes to learning more about Mesozoic insects. Study co-author Martin Fikáček, from National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, explained the possibilities ofScimex:

“We didn’t know what insects looked like in Triassic times and now we have the opportunity. Maybe when many more coprolites are analyzed, we will find that some groups of reptiles have produced coprolites that are not really useful, while others have coprolites full of well-preserved insects that we can study. We just have to start looking inside the coprolites to at least get a feel. “

They went on to say:

“In this regard, our discovery is very promising. He’s basically telling people, “Hey, check out more coprolites using the microCT; there is a good chance of finding insects there. And if you find it, it can be really well preserved.

It is important to note that unlike amber deposits, fossilized dinosaur droppings can be much older than 140 million years. This sample is estimated to be at least 230 million years old.

The dinosaur responsible for this discovery

Researchers attributed the discovery to Silesaurus opolensis, a species of dinosaur known to live in this part of Poland. He could grow to around two meters in length and was probably a nimble creature with an excellent field of vision and a keratin beak. This find is added to the previous onestudies which suggested thatSilesaurus was an omnivore rather than a herbivore.