Paleontology is more than just bones – especially here.
The vast majority of fossils we find here are actually a sort of infill we call a “steinkern.” Some of the fossils are the original shells. There are also plenty of teeth, spines, plates and, of course, a few bones. We’ve also found a remarkable amount of fossilized poop.
Explore how the creatures have been preserved as different types of fossils:
Imagine a sea shell as a kind of jello mold – sand and mud fill up the inside of the shell, and over millions of years the shell dissolves away, leaving just the fill behind, in the shape of the inside of the shell. The amazing thing is that even without the shell itself, we can still tell what kind of animal it was from the steinkern.
Chordates like turtles, fish, and crocodiles end up as bony skeletons that can fossilize under the right conditions.
Sharks and rays shed their teeth throughout their lives, and they left hundreds of them here, even before they died. We’ve also found the teeth of fish, mosasaurs and crocodiles. Teeth preserve well in the fossil record because they’re much more durable than other body parts.
So as it turns out, animals in the sea poop, and that poop can fossilize. Glad we got that out of the way. Actually, we can learn a remarkable amount about an animal and its environment from fossilized feces. Paleontologists at Drexel University are studying these coprolites in depth right now.