Scientists have discovered what they have determined to be a prehistoric communal latrine which they believe is the world’s oldest public toilet.
The dinosaur-age discovery was made in La Roja province in Argentina by researchers who identified a 200-million-year-old toilet used by the rhino-like dinodontosaurus megaherbivores which are in the dicynodonts family. The fossil corprolites that were found in various clusters came in various shapes and sizes: “Some were sausage-like, others pristine ovals, in colors ranging from whitish grey to dark brown-violet.”
Scientists concluded that the dinodontosaurus was the only species that was capable of producing that amount of dung, and the bones of the prehistoric animal were found at the site as conformation.
According to the London Telegraph, “As well as providing clues to what the animals ate, the discovery provides the earliest known example of groups of animals defecating in the same “public toilet” — a behavior exhibited today by species including horses, tapirs and elephants. By dumping their waste in the same spot, groups can not only mark out their territory but also minimize the distribution of parasites around it.”
Study leader Dr. Lucias Fiorelli noted that the dinodontosaurus public bathroom was “also a warning to predators. If you leave a huge pile, you are saying: ‘Hey! We are a big herd. Watch out!’”
The study was published in the November issue of Scientific Reports. Martin Hechenleitner, another one of the authors, commented that “When cracked open they reveal fragments of extinct plants, fungi, and gut parasites. Each poo is a snapshot of an ancient ecosystem — the vegetation and the food chain.”
The study concludes that “… the massive coprolite accumulations from the Chañares Formation (Ladinian-Carnian) are the first record of communal latrines for extant and extinct non-mammal megaherbivores, indicating that this mammal-type behavior was actually present in much older relatives of mammals, and predate its oldest fossil record in around 220 million years.”