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Multi-proxy analyses of Late Cretaceous coprolites from Germany

  • Martin Qvarnström
  • Stavros Anagnostakis
  • Anders Lindskog
  • Udo Scheer
  • Vivi Vajda
  • Bo W. Rasmussen
  • Johan Lindgren
  • Mats E. Eriksson
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Pages: 550-569
Publication/Series: Lethaia
Volume: 52
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Abstract english

A total of 462 coprolites from three localities exposing Upper Cretaceous deposits in the Münster Basin, northwestern Germany, have been subjected to an array of analytical techniques, with the aim of elucidating ancient trophic structures and predator–prey interactions. The phosphatic composition, frequent bone inclusions, size and morphology collectively suggest that most, if not all, coprolites were produced by carnivorous (predatory or scavenging) vertebrates. The bone inclusions further indicate that the coprolite producers preyed principally upon fish. Putative host animals include bony fish, sharks and marine reptiles – all of which have been previously recorded from the Münster Basin. The presence of borings and other traces on several coprolites implies handling by coprophagous organisms. Remains of epibionts are also common, most of which have been identified as the encrusting bivalve Atreta. Palynological analyses of both the coprolites and host rocks reveal a sparse assemblage dominated by typical Late Cretaceous dinoflagellates, and with sub-ordinate fern spores, conifer pollen grains and angiosperm pollen grains. The dinoflagellate key taxon Exochosphaeridium cenomaniense corroborates a Cenomanian age for the Plenus Marl, from which most studied coprolites derive. The findings of this study highlight the potential of a multi-proxy approach when it comes to unravelling the origin, composition and importance of coprolites in palaeoecosystem analyses.


  • Geology
  • Cenomanian
  • coprolites
  • Late Cretaceous
  • Münster Basin
  • palaeoecology


  • ISSN: 0024-1164
Mats Eriksson
E-mail: mats [dot] eriksson [at] geol [dot] lu [dot] se


Lithosphere and Biosphere Science

+46 46 222 96 02