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The Scoop on Poop

In the field of Biology, there are a few jobs I would kindly decline, and first and foremost would have to be “Scatologist”. “Scat” is the scientific term for animal feces, and a Scatologist is you guessed it– a scientist who studies it. Although the scat itself is nothing short of unappealing, the study of scat and its importance to understanding animal behavior, their habits and food sources, is both scientifically important and strangely fascinating. Next week, we’ll be studying scat as a part of our Spring Break Camp, Muckology and to give folks at home a sneak peek into what we’ll be discovering (in addition to doing some scatology in the field, ourselves), I thought I would share some of my favorite facts about feces.

  1. Dung Disguises:

Swallowtail Caterpillars are in my opinion, one of the trickiest insects on Earth. As larvae, they develop brownish-white markings – the result? They look exactly like bird droppings – a clever mimicry to keep birds and other creatures from making them a meal.

2.  Museum Grade Feces:

According to the Saskatchewan Government, the Royal Museum of Saskatchewan just donated a 65-million-year-old coprolite (that’s fossilized dinosaur dung), thought to be from a Tyrannosaurus Rex to the American Museum of Natural History. The coprolite will be on display in the exhibition, “Putting Dinosaurs in their Place” and will help scientists understand more about their biology, including how they ate.

3.  Man’s Best Friend:

Scatologists around the globe are using dogs (and the olfactory glands in their noses) to sniff out scat in the field. Last year, a Rottweiler named Fargo was employed to help research biologists study the population of the endangered Right Whales along the North Atlantic to investigate threats to their health and reproduction. Their scat is known to be pungent, and the former drug sniffing dog, was a perfect fit for the job.

4.  Expensive Taste:

Civet coffee (also known as Kopi Luwak) is made from coffee beans that have been digested by Civet Cats (a small mammal from Indonesia) and then passed by the animal. The excrement is picked up, washed and the beans are ground to make Kopi Luwak – the coffee is known to be a delicacy and sells for more than $200 per pound.

We hope our “muckologists” next week will leave camp with appreciation for scat and learning about animals inside (and out)! The next time you’re on a trail or taking your dog for a walk, channel your inner scatologist by remembering this rhyme:

It starts with an "S" and it ends with a "T"
It comes out of you and it comes out of me
I know what you're thinking but don't call it that!
Let's be scientific and call it SCAT
 

For more information on Science Camps at The Parklands, click here

For more on scat and scatology visit the websites below:

http://www.azmnh.org/pdf/psiteacherpacket.pdf

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/scat-studies-gallery/

http://www.gov.sk.ca/news?newsId=7ebc101c-c35f-490c-bf73-2110cb6efd52 

http://archive.bangordailynews.com/2006/08/07/scat-sniffing-dog-helps-scientists-study-right-whale-population/ 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/07/civet-coffee-authentication/2686427/ 

About the Author

Picture of Kim Allgeier

Kim Allgeier

Kim Allgeier is a seasoned education professional with more than 10 years’ experience designing programs in a variety of informal education settings. Allgeier served as Education and Interpretation Manager for The Parklands for two years. Her expertise was critical in developing and implementing the enriching educational programs that are the core of The Parklands of Floyds Fork mission. Allgeier is a graduate of Western Kentucky University where she studied history and library media education.

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