June 6 (UPI) -- Researchers in Sweden have found evidence of food residues preserved in ancient fossilized feces.
Synchrotron scanning yielded 3D models of tiny fragments of beetles, fish and bivalves in 230-million-year-old feces samples.
Fossilized feces are called coprolites. The scatological evidence can offer unique insights into the lifestyle and diet of ancient species, including dinosaurs.
Until now, must coprolites are analyzed by imaging 2D cross-sections. The technique limits the ability of scientists to study the entirety of the fossil and can damage the coprolite's contents.
Researchers at Uppsala University used synchrotron tomography -- like CT scanning but with more intense X-rays -- to create 3D images of two Triassic age feces samples.
In one of the two samples, the scans revealed 3D images of wing cases and a portion of a leg, representing the remains of three different beetle species. Models of the second sample revealed crushed clam shells and fragments of a partially digested fish.
The scientists described their breakthrough analysis in the journal Scientific Reports.
"We have so far only seen the top of the iceberg," lead study author Martin Qvarnström, a PhD student at Uppsala, said in a news release. "The next step will be to analyze all types of coprolites from the same fossil locality in order to work out who ate what -- or whom -- and understand the interactions within the ecosystem."