CIE Spotlight: Taphonomy and palaeobiology of early Middle Triassic coprolites from the Luoping biota, southwest China: Implications for reconstruction of fossil food webs

Mao L. and Guang S.

Authors: Luo, Mao; Hu, Shixue; Benton, Michael J.; Shi, G. R.; Zhao, Laishi; Huang, Jinyuan; Song, Haijun; Wen, Wen; Zhang, Qiyue; Fang, Yuheng; Huang, Yuangeng; Chen, Zhong-Qiang

Source: PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY, 474 232-246, MAY 15 2017

Brief summary of the paper: Abundant, exceptionally preserved coprolites are documented from the Luoping biota (Anisian, Middle Triassic) of Yunnan Province, southwest China.

These coprolites can be categorized into four morphological types: A) bead to ribbon-shaped, B) short to long cylindrical-shaped, C) flattened, disk-like, and D) segmented faeces.

Detailed multi-disciplinary studies reveal that coprolite type A was likely produced by invertebrate animals, while coprolite types B to D could be faeces generated by carnivorous fishes or marine reptiles, perhaps from different taxonomic groups. When compared with coprolites reported from the Lower Triassic, the Luoping forms indicate more complicated predation-prey food web networks.

These evidences, combined with body fossil discoveries from Luoping, suggest the emergence of complex trophic ecosystems in the Anisian, marking the full biotic recovery following the Permian–Triassic Mass Extinction.