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The oldest known communal latrines provide evidence of gregarism in Triassic megaherbivores.

Fiorelli LE, Ezcurra MD, Hechenleitner EM, Argañaraz E, Taborda JR, Trotteyn MJ, von Baczko MB, Desojo JB - Sci Rep (2013)

Bottom Line: Herbivore communal latrines are only documented among mammals and their fossil record is exceptionally restricted to the late Cenozoic.Several lines of evidence (size, morphology, abundance and coprofabrics) and their association with kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts indicate that these large synapsids produced the communal latrines and had a gregarious behaviour comparable to that of extant megaherbivores.This is the first evidence of megaherbivore communal latrines in non-mammal vertebrates, indicating that this mammal-type behaviour was present in distant relatives of mammals, and predates its previous oldest record by 220 Mya.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: 1] Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) [2] Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica de La Rioja (CRILAR). Entre Ríos y Mendoza s/n., 5301, Anillaco, La Rioja, Argentina.

ABSTRACT
Defecation in communal latrines is a common behaviour of extant mammals widely distributed among megaherbivores. This behaviour has key social functions with important biological and ecological implications. Herbivore communal latrines are only documented among mammals and their fossil record is exceptionally restricted to the late Cenozoic. Here we report the discovery of several massive coprolite associations in the Middle-Late Triassic of the Chañares Formation, Argentina, which represent fossil communal latrines based on a high areal density, small areal extension and taphonomic attributes. Several lines of evidence (size, morphology, abundance and coprofabrics) and their association with kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts indicate that these large synapsids produced the communal latrines and had a gregarious behaviour comparable to that of extant megaherbivores. This is the first evidence of megaherbivore communal latrines in non-mammal vertebrates, indicating that this mammal-type behaviour was present in distant relatives of mammals, and predates its previous oldest record by 220 Mya.

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Coprolite thin sections from the Chañares Formation (CRILAR-c 144).(a and b) Woody fragments in the micritic coprofabric of the specimens from Chañares latrines. (c) Leaf fragments and other woody micro-remains in the coprofabric. (d–g) Fossil mosses and ferns-like spores (microspores and megaspores) commonly observed in the coprofabric.
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f4: Coprolite thin sections from the Chañares Formation (CRILAR-c 144).(a and b) Woody fragments in the micritic coprofabric of the specimens from Chañares latrines. (c) Leaf fragments and other woody micro-remains in the coprofabric. (d–g) Fossil mosses and ferns-like spores (microspores and megaspores) commonly observed in the coprofabric.

Mentions: Most of the thin sections (Fig. 4) of the sampled coprolites have considerable diagenetic alteration represented by calcite (microspary) replacement. CT scans (see Suppl. Fig. 10) revealed that the coprolites are massive, but have some internal desiccation microfractures infilled by a diagenetic drusy equigranular cement (Fig. 4c and Suppl. Fig. 9g). Some coprolites possess internal microvesicles that are interpreted as gas microbubbles traces. All sampled coprolites lack internal micro-bone remains and, conversely, the coprofabrics bear abundant carbonaceous organic debris, microscopic woody plant remains and micro- and megaspores, as well as possible freshwater ostracods (Fig. 4 and Suppl. Fig. 11).


The oldest known communal latrines provide evidence of gregarism in Triassic megaherbivores.

Fiorelli LE, Ezcurra MD, Hechenleitner EM, Argañaraz E, Taborda JR, Trotteyn MJ, von Baczko MB, Desojo JB - Sci Rep (2013)

Coprolite thin sections from the Chañares Formation (CRILAR-c 144).(a and b) Woody fragments in the micritic coprofabric of the specimens from Chañares latrines. (c) Leaf fragments and other woody micro-remains in the coprofabric. (d–g) Fossil mosses and ferns-like spores (microspores and megaspores) commonly observed in the coprofabric.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3842779&req=5

f4: Coprolite thin sections from the Chañares Formation (CRILAR-c 144).(a and b) Woody fragments in the micritic coprofabric of the specimens from Chañares latrines. (c) Leaf fragments and other woody micro-remains in the coprofabric. (d–g) Fossil mosses and ferns-like spores (microspores and megaspores) commonly observed in the coprofabric.
Mentions: Most of the thin sections (Fig. 4) of the sampled coprolites have considerable diagenetic alteration represented by calcite (microspary) replacement. CT scans (see Suppl. Fig. 10) revealed that the coprolites are massive, but have some internal desiccation microfractures infilled by a diagenetic drusy equigranular cement (Fig. 4c and Suppl. Fig. 9g). Some coprolites possess internal microvesicles that are interpreted as gas microbubbles traces. All sampled coprolites lack internal micro-bone remains and, conversely, the coprofabrics bear abundant carbonaceous organic debris, microscopic woody plant remains and micro- and megaspores, as well as possible freshwater ostracods (Fig. 4 and Suppl. Fig. 11).

Bottom Line: Herbivore communal latrines are only documented among mammals and their fossil record is exceptionally restricted to the late Cenozoic.Several lines of evidence (size, morphology, abundance and coprofabrics) and their association with kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts indicate that these large synapsids produced the communal latrines and had a gregarious behaviour comparable to that of extant megaherbivores.This is the first evidence of megaherbivore communal latrines in non-mammal vertebrates, indicating that this mammal-type behaviour was present in distant relatives of mammals, and predates its previous oldest record by 220 Mya.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: 1] Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) [2] Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica de La Rioja (CRILAR). Entre Ríos y Mendoza s/n., 5301, Anillaco, La Rioja, Argentina.

ABSTRACT
Defecation in communal latrines is a common behaviour of extant mammals widely distributed among megaherbivores. This behaviour has key social functions with important biological and ecological implications. Herbivore communal latrines are only documented among mammals and their fossil record is exceptionally restricted to the late Cenozoic. Here we report the discovery of several massive coprolite associations in the Middle-Late Triassic of the Chañares Formation, Argentina, which represent fossil communal latrines based on a high areal density, small areal extension and taphonomic attributes. Several lines of evidence (size, morphology, abundance and coprofabrics) and their association with kannemeyeriiform dicynodonts indicate that these large synapsids produced the communal latrines and had a gregarious behaviour comparable to that of extant megaherbivores. This is the first evidence of megaherbivore communal latrines in non-mammal vertebrates, indicating that this mammal-type behaviour was present in distant relatives of mammals, and predates its previous oldest record by 220 Mya.

Show MeSH