Science, Now + Beyond

BREAKING: Scientists have finally created an animal farting database

It might be the butt of many a joke, but for some scientists, farts are serious stuff.

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Have you ever thought about animals farting? What it sounds like – or even which animals are able to fart and which aren’t? If you have, you might want to join this group of inquisitive scientists on the Twittersphere. There is a hashtag, #DoesItFart, for people who want to follow along and learn more about animal farts (or just the animal kingdom in general!) They’ve also created a spreadsheet – but you’ll need to request permission in order to access it, and all its juicy details.

 

HOW IT BEGAN: One Simple Tweet

As with many phenomena in the information age, this all started because of one tweet. Dani Rabaiotti fielded a question from her brother about snakes and their ability to fart, which she passed on to a colleague, David Steen. Steen replied:

A whole bunch of other people jumped on it, and here we are, hashtag, spreadsheet, and all. It’s probably also attracted a whole bunch of people who might not otherwise have been interested in science (or animal biology) to take an interest in all the different creatures we share our planet with.

Farts are a byproduct of the digestive system Click To Tweet

As Steen has noted himself, “I don’t know if animal flatulence questions can serve as a significant gateway to a greater appreciation of biodiversity, but it is always fun to see what captures people’s attention … It is at least an opportunity to engage with a larger audience and bring new folks into the conversation.”

Do birds fart!?
Do birds fart!?

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? (Besides being highly amusing)

It seems silly, but farts are a byproduct of the digestive system, and many scientists have built careers on studying animals’ diets and the impacts this has on digestion. The methane emissions made by the farts of livestock, such as sheep and cattle, largely contribute to global warming, as methane is a greenhouse gas.

Birds do not fart! Click To Tweet

Attempts to curtail this have not yet been very successful. One study suggested feeding livestock food that contains high levels of oil in order to decrease methane production. Another, more recent study has shown that adding seaweed to cows’ diets may also be effective, claiming to decrease a cow’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 99%. As the world becomes more aware of the impacts of climate change on our planet, it is likely that there will be more studies to come.

 

WHICH ANIMALS DO(N’T) FART!?

Dr Laura Dickson, who has a PhD in ornithology, says that birds do not fart. There is a lengthy explanation on her blog, but it’s all to do with the length of their intestinal tract. Spiders might fart, but their digestion occurs externally, so scientists aren’t sure. Soft-shell clams do not fart, but guinea pigs, tapirs, chimpanzees, and orangutans certainly do.

Evolutionary anthropology Ph.D candidate Adriana Lowe wrote, a chimpanzee fart is “worst when eating figs. So loud and frequent we locate them in forest occasionally by following the farts; Even worse when eating Cynometra seeds! Fiber!”

Look at this cute hedgehog! Warning: it farts.
Look at this cute hedgehog! Warning: it farts. 

Herrings fart as a form of communication, and hedgehogs definitely do fart. Millipedes are thought to fart, and cockroaches fart a whole lot more than you’d think they would. Snakes fart too, as do bobcats, and of course, humans.

If this has piqued your interest and you want to learn more about the weird and wonderful world of fauna farting, jump on the hashtag or the spreadsheet and read away!

Yen-Rong Wong

Yen-Rong Wong

Yen-Rong Wong is the founder of Pencilled In, a literary magazine dedicated to showcasing work by young Asian Australian artists. She hopes to put her literature and biomedical science degrees to good use through her writing.

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