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Why don’t soft internal organs fossilise?

My boy’s dinosaur book says that soft internal organs of dinosaurs don’t fossilise, only bones do. Then there’s an entire page on coprolites, i.e. fossilised poo. How come soft internal organs don’t fossilise, but poo does?
Heidi Bummer from Aberdeenshire (Age 35-44)


One Response

  1. Soft organs do sometimes get fossilised, but in comparison to bone fossilisation it is very rare. The conditions must be such that the internal organs, or sometimes skin or feathers, or a nest of eggs, are sealed in anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions and fossilised extremely quickly. In these conditions the soft body parts are not broken down and consumed by detritovores (organisms that break down and eat decaying organic material). (And it is a misconception that fossilisation is always a slow, gradual process.) Coprolites are fossilised because in the right conditions they are desiccated and/or sealed in conditions that prevent their decay through detritovores, and therefore can be fossilised or survive as desiccated ‘poo’.

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