The rare-earth element (REE) geochemistry of phosphate nodules from eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma is dominated by patterns that are generally flat or are enriched in middle REE (MREE). Flat patterns are typical of phosphate nodules preserved in thick shales and in nodules from shales deposited nearest to detrital sources. The flat patterns are probably derived from terrigenous constituents in the host shale. MREE enrichment is evident in phosphate found in relatively thin shales and in distal shales. We suggest that the MREE-enriched pattern reflects the contribution of MREE-enriched fecal phosphate. The initial MREE enrichment mechanism may have been analogous to that in which some modern algae preferentially extract MREE from water of marine composition. The MREE-enriched signature may be preserved only in phosphate nodules that formed where terrigenous input was so low that it did not mask the characteristic fecal pattern. Rare Ce depletion patterns reflect a primary seawater REE source that has not been obscured by fecal or detrital components.