Accelerator Test Facility and Synchrotron Radiation Source at KIT

Scientists examine fossil excrement using synchrotron X-ray microtomography

  • Date: December 2013

Fossil cockroach and its excrements in Lebanese amber

The dung of herbivorous dinosaurs was most likely disposed by cockroaches

The dung of herbivorous dinosaurs was most likely disposed by cockroaches, as shown by Dr. Peter Vršanský (Slovakian Academy of Sciences), Dr. Thomas van de Kamp (IPS Imaging Group) and colleagues in an article recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Fossil excrement of a ca. 130 million years old cockroach encased in Lebanese amber was examined using synchrotron X-ray microtomography at ANKA’s TOPO-TOMO beamline. This non-invasive technique facilitates three-dimensional imaging of millimeter-sized structures. It became apparent that the droppings contained large particles of wood, whose appearance strongly suggested pre-digestion by a large herbivore. As flies and dung beetles were virtually non-existent during the time period, it seems plausible that cockroaches owned their ecological niche.

Reference: Vršanský, P., van de Kamp, T., Azar, D., Prokin, A., Vidlička, L. & Vagovič, P. (2013): Cockroaches likely cleaned up after dinosaurs. PLOS ONE 8(12):e80560.