A poo is bursting with life, like a reef full of fish or a rainforest full of monkeys. In every gram of faeces there are more than a billion living bacteria. As long as it stays inside, they’ll divide a couple of times an hour.
Pooing can help us survive
The need to defecate when in danger is part of the ‘fight or flight’ reflex – an antelope s***s its brains out at the sight of an oncoming lion. An antelope poo may not weigh much, but it can mean the difference between life and death if the animal can run a little faster without it.
It helps us locate animals
Researchers looking for eagle droppings are assisted by the sunburst lichen that grows on them. With its bright colours, this lichen makes it possible to see from great distances where the eagles foul their home rocks in the Arctic. Similarly, in 2012 a new colony of emperor penguins consisting of 9,000 individuals was found in Antarctica in the Princess Ragnhild Coast area. The animals gave themselves away by their excrement, which stood out clearly on the satellite images as brown against the white sea ice.
We can use poo to measure temperature
A turd reflects the temperature of the body’s inner sanctum. That’s actually the normal method for taking an elephant’s temperature, for instance, because inserting a thermometer into a fresh elephant dropping is much easier than trying to insert it into one of the animal’s bodily orifices.
Poo is a great source of nutrients
Until the rapid urbanisation of the 21st Century, more than 90 per cent of all the human faeces in China ended up in the fields. The prestige of human manure reached a high point during the country’s Cultural Revolution. According to Mao Zedong, your turd did not belong to you but to your entire commune.
This is an extract from issue 326 of BBC Focus magazine.
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