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Coprolites in Cemented Pleistocene Deposits on the Cape South Coast of South Africa

journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-05, 14:21 authored by CW Helm, MK Bamford, Andrew Carr, HC Cawthra, JC De Vynck, MG Dixon, LJ Quick, W Stear
Ichnology, the study of trace fossils, has the potential to complement information from traditional body fossil studies. Six ichnosites, containing an array of features interpreted with varying degrees of confidence as vertebrate coprolites, have recently been identified on the Cape south coast of South Africa. They are embedded in Pleistocene deposits from Marine Isotope Stage 6 or 5e through Marine Isotope Stage 5a. Bovid, carnivoran, elephant and reptile origins are inferred. In the majority of cases vertebrate tracks occur in association with the coprolites. Petrography studies confirm an organic component in all samples, confirming the potential of coprolites to contribute to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Although initial palynology and phytolith studies were negative, a diligent search for further sites and further testing may help in realizing this potential. More broadly, the six ichnosites demonstrate the capacity of cemented dune and beach surfaces on the Cape south coast to preserve coprolites in open-air settings, compared with previously known coprolite records from carnivore dens and archaeological sites.


Author affiliation

School of Geography, Geology and Environment, University of Leicester


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Journal of Coastal Research: an international forum for the littoral sciences


Coastal Education and Research Foundation



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