All Mammals Take the Same Amount of Time to Poop, Scientists Find

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iStock

Yes, everyone poops. Moreover, at least when it comes to mammals, everyone poops for about the same amount of time, according to a new study. The research, described in the journal Soft Matter and brought to our attention by the Science of Us, examined mammals as small as cats and as large as elephants, finding that they all took around 12 seconds to defecate.

The study examined elephants, giant pandas, and warthogs at the Zoo Atlanta, dogs at a park, the dimensions of feces and large intestines, and mathematical models to better understand how animals poop. The Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found that regardless of the animal’s total size, the mammals studied had feces that were double the length of their rectum, and whether that rectum was an inch-and-a-half long or almost 16 inches long, their feces took about 12 seconds to exit the body.

The researchers only studied animals with cylindrical feces (excluding rabbits, rodents, and ruminants like cows in the process), collecting stool samples from 34 zoo animals, seven farm animals, and two species of animals (unidentified) living at Georgia Tech. They also observed animals pooping at Zoo Atlanta firsthand and watched 19 different YouTube videos that featured animals doing their business.

Through their observations and theoretical calculations on the fluid mechanics of defecation, the researchers found that all animals exert the same amount of pressure while pooping. They also found that bigger animals had more poop to get rid of, but they also had thicker mucus layers lining the walls of their large intestine, which helps move the poop out of the body at a faster clip. Combine these two factors, and you get pretty consistent poop durations across the animal kingdom—12 seconds—despite the wide range of body sizes. (Constipation happens when the feces moving through the large intestine soak up that mucus layer. Think of it like trying to go down a waterslide that is completely dry.)

This study did not examine every animal on Earth, but the finding is in line with research on the other potty habits of mammals. Previous work—awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2015—found that all mammals pee for about the same amount of time (21 seconds). It’s evolutionarily plausible, too. Pooping makes it hard to run away from predators (a significant number of sloths die when they leave the treetops to poop at ground level, in fact) and a quick heave-ho of the bowels is safer than straining in one location for 20 minutes.

The researchers hope their study will be used for more than just satisfying the curiosity of colon obsessives, though. “By understanding the physics of defecation, we will provide not only new ideas for medical diagnostics, diapers, and incontinence products but also transport methods for the feces of humans, pets, and agriculturally important animals,” they write.

[h/t Science of Us]

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

An Ice Age Wolf Head Was Found Perfectly Preserved in Siberian Permafrost

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iStock/stevegeer

Don’t lose your head in Siberia, or it may be found preserved thousands of years later.

A group of mammoth tusk hunters in eastern Siberia recently found an Ice Age wolf’s head—minus its body—in the region’s permafrost. Almost perfectly preserved thanks to tens of thousands of years in ice, researchers dated the specimen to the Pleistocene Epoch—a period between 1.8 million and 11,700 years ago characterized by the Ice Age. The head measures just under 16 inches long, The Siberian Times reports, which is roughly the same size as a modern gray wolf’s.

Believed to be between 2 to 4 years old around the time of its death, the wolf was found with its fur, teeth, and soft tissue still intact. Scientists said the region’s permafrost, a layer of ground that remains permanently frozen, preserved the head like a steak in a freezer. Researchers have scanned the head with a CT scanner to reveal more of its anatomy for further study.

Tori Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at London’s Natural History Museum, witnessed the head’s discovery in August 2018. She performed carbon dating on the tissue and tweeted that it was about 32,000 years old.

The announcement of the discovery was made in early June to coincide with the opening of a new museum exhibit, "The Mammoth," at Tokyo’s Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The exhibit features more than 40 Pleistocene specimens—including a frozen horse and a mammoth's trunk—all in mint condition, thanks to the permafrost’s effects. (It's unclear if the wolf's head is included in the show.)

While it’s great to have a zoo’s worth of prehistoric beasts on display, scientists said the number of animals emerging from permafrost is increasing for all the wrong reasons. Albert Protopopov, director of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha, told CNN that the warming climate is slowly but surely thawing the permafrost. The higher the temperature, the likelier that more prehistoric specimens will be found.

And with average temperatures rising around the world, we may find more long-extinct creatures rising from the ice.

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