Paleontologists and biologists from Russia, Slovakia, Germany, Lebanon, and Japan are the first to offer positive fossil proof that cockroaches cleaned up the dung left by Triassic, Jurassic, and Early Cretaceous dinosaurs in the Dec. 4, 2013, edition of the journal Public Library of Science.
The scientists postulate that while many of the modern insects that consume animal feces were not present at the time dinosaurs roamed the Earth, something had to have consumed the massive amounts of feces that these huge animals produced. Presuming that no insect species was available to perform the function of dung removal would indicate that truly massive quantities of fossilized dinosaur dung would remain on Earth today. There have never been any huge dinosaur feces finds.
The researchers used synchrotron x-ray microtomography to examine the contents of the gut and feces of an extinct cockroach from the genus Blattulidae that is known to date to the time of dinosaurs. The cockroach in amber was found in Lebanon and dates to at least 120 million years of age.
The amber encased cockroach had undigested wood particles that had no evidence of damage in its mouth and the cockroach's dung had remnants of plants that are known to have been consumed by large herbivorous dinosaurs.
The researchers conclude that cockroaches may have been the first insects to act as animal waste recyclers during the time dinosaurs lived on Earth.