During the past 30 years or so, trace fossils – such as tracks, burrows, nests, toothmarks, coprolites (fossil feces), and so on – have been steadily gaining more respect and recognition in paleontology. I would like to think this is a direct result of my dedicated “ichnoevangelism,” in which I have attempted to convert The Great Unwashed who fail to see the paleontological truth inherent to trace fossils, but the world of paleontology is much bigger than the Church of Ichnology (so far). Nonetheless, despite this overall increase in enlightenment, one type of trace fossil still causes some recalcitrant non-believers to turn gazes elsewhere and ignore their scientific worth. Those would be gastroliths, otherwise known as “stomach stones.”
Gastroliths extracted from the interior of a Cretaceous elasmosaur (a large, long-necked marine reptile) in central Queensland, Australia. Specimens are at the Stonehouse Museum and collected by “Dinosaur” Dick Suter in Boulia, Queensland. I know, they just look like a bunch of rocks, not trace fossils. Please read on, and prepare to learn.