Excreta discovered in an ancient fish skull

It is an unusual discovery that fascinates the scientific community. Researchers have recently found fossilized fecal pellets in the skull of a fish. These excrements would have probably been left by scavengers in the brain of the fish and would date from nine million years ago, that is to say from the Miocene era. The skull was discovered at Calvert Cliffs, a site in southern Maryland, USA.

The skull is that of the fish Astroscope countermani reputed to be a predator that lived underground at the bottom of the water. What struck the researchers is that the coprolites show some uniformity. Their size and shape were also similar. In addition, the researchers discovered an 18 centimeter long coprolite fossil there,

For now, scientists are still trying to identify the animals that may have stuffed the skull of this fish with their feces.

The origin of the feces still unknown

Paleontologists advance several hypotheses and try to eliminate them one after another according to the data. Like the excrement were discovered in a marine environment, they dismissed the idea that they were produced by insects.

Likewise, they excluded sea squirts and acorn worms due to their natural habits. The most plausible lead they have is that of an invertebrate that was able to compress its body in a surprising way. To support this opinion, scientists evoke the idea that the fecal pellets were discovered in the skull of a fish that is not 5 cm wide. This thesis also eliminates certain species and refocuses studies on others.

“That would likely rule out snails and clams, leaving polychaete worms and other types of worms as the most likely candidates. »

Stephen Godfrey, senior author and study and curator of paleontology at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons

Calvert Cliffs a major point of interest

These new discoveries further arouse the interest of paleontologists for the site Calvert Cliffs. In the past, excavations carried out in this area have notably made it possible to describe several thousand-year-old species, including sharks and other fish, turtles, crocodiles, seabirds and seals.

The next few months may reveal more secrets that this epic site holds.


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