In an impressive paleontological find, hundreds of strange fossils have been found inside a fish skull, dating back some 9 million years.
According to scientists, these are tiny fossilized fecal pellets known as coprolites. These were deposited by scavengers, probably worms, which devoured the fish’s decomposing head, including its brain.
The fossil fish head was found at Calvert Cliffs, a site in southern Maryland where other fossils dating to the Miocene (18 to 8 million years ago) have previously been found.
The skull belonged to the fish astroscopus countermanim, a predator of the family of the still existing astroscopus that live at the bottom of the sea.
According to paleontologists, while chewing the meat of the skull, the worms expelled strings and clusters of oval coprolite beads, each about 2.5 millimeters long that filled the entire fish skull. The researchers note that the small granules were similar in size and shape, something for which they have not found an explanation.
Another of the findings next to the skull of the fish was a much larger coprolite, about 18 centimeters, which was possibly defecated by a vertebrate such as a crocodile.
The scientists also found other deposits of coprolite granules in sandy sediments, attached to fossilized snails and bivalve shells that were surrounded by preserved barnacles.
While the study can’t confirm for sure that these scavenging worms ate the fish’s brain, the fact that the fish’s skull is full of poop suggests that they probably did.