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Early Cretaceous predatory dinosaur coprolites from Teruel, Spain



Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com

A new paper:

Vivi Vajda, M. Dolores Pesquero Fernandez, Uxue Villanueva-Amadoz,
Veiko Lehsten & Luis Alcalá (2016)
Dietary and environmental implications of Early Cretaceous predatory
dinosaur coprolites from Teruel, Spain
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (advance online publication)
doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.02.036
http: // www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018216001176


Highlights

Well-preserved Cretaceous coprolites from the Escucha Fm., Teruel,
Spain were studied.
The coprolites possibly derive from a carnivorous dinosaur.
Palynological analysis of the sediments shows a flora dominated by gymnosperms.
Subsidiary elements are ferns and sparse angiosperm pollen, indicative
of an Albian age.
The high abundance of charcoal particles in the coprolites is enigmatic.

Abstract

Coprolites from the Early Cretaceous vertebrate bone-bed at Ariño in
Teruel, Spain, were analysed geochemically and palynologically. They
contain various inclusions, such as small bone fragments, abundant
plant remains, pollen and spores. We attribute the coprolites to
carnivorous dinosaurs based partly on their morphology together with
the presence of bone fragments, and a high content of calcium
phosphate (hydroxylapatite) with calcite. Well-preserved pollen and
spore assemblages were identified in all coprolite samples and a
slightly poorer assemblage was obtained from the adjacent sediments,
both indicating an Early Cretaceous (Albian) age. This shows that the
coprolites are in situ and also confirms previous age determinations
for the host strata. The depositional environment is interpreted as a
continental wetland based on the palynoflora, which includes several
hydrophilic taxa, together with sparse occurrences of freshwater
algae, such as Ovoidites, and the absence of marine palynomorphs.

Although the coprolites of Ariño samples generally are dominated by
pollen produced by Taxodiaceae (cypress) and Cheirolepidiaceae (a
family of extinct conifers), the sediment samples have a slightly
higher relative abundance of fern spores. The distribution of major
organic components varies between the coprolite and sediment samples,
which is manifest by the considerably higher charcoal percentage
within the coprolites. The high quantities of charcoal might be
explained by a ground dwelling species, feeding on smaller vertebrates
that complemented its diet with plant material from a paleoenvironment
were wild fires were a part of the ecosystem. The state of
preservation of the spores and pollen is also more detailed in the
coprolites, suggesting that encasement in calcium phosphate may
inhibit degradation of sporopollenin.