Fecal proxies

By Dulcinea Groff

Dung fungus spores of Sporormiella australis. From Funghi Paradise.

Dung fungus spores of Sporormiella australis. From Funghi Paradise.

Feces of prehistoric organisms remaining in the sediment records harbor information that can lead to a picturesque reconstruction of an ecosystem from long ago.  It is quite remarkable how many examples of fecal proxies exist and provide more information than just an indication of the presence or absence of an animal.  In the early 1800’s, an eccentric paleontologist named William Buckland was the first to describe coprolites or fossilized feces.  When feces become fossilized the organic components are replaced with minerals and any clue as to what the organism ate is replaced.  Therefore, coprolites may not be very useful in understanding the ecology of past environments and organisms.  Instead, other things associated with feces become proxies in paleoecological studies. Continue reading

The Great American Biotic Interchange: The Forgotten Bird

By Wayne Heideman

Do you remember what it was like on your first day of kindergarten, college, or work? You were placed into an environment that was different than the one you had known previously, whether it was because of the people, place, or experiences. Around 3.1 million years ago, this is what North America and South America, provided they had feelings, would have felt when they became connected via the Panama isthmus. Not only did it connect two continents, but it connected the organisms that inhabited the two continents.

Continue reading