Thursday, May 19, 2005
Projectile Penguin Poo
I was looking for a serious pop science story for today. I sifted through all the usual stuff; -genes that regulate ageing, the latest outbreak of Ebola virus in the Congo, bird ‘flu in Asia (I will write about that soon), undersea tectonic fault lines, string theory and that bloody asteroid that’s going to miss us by the skin of our teeth in 2013. Then I found this on the BBC website. A study on the excretory habits of penguins. My reasons for posting such a piece of silliness are inspired by the excited commentary Scaryduck gets on his site when he writes about doing a “Number 2”, which is quite often (BTW, Scary, that story you posted last Friday was truly gross, even by my standards).
Anyway, according to the article, the penguin can shoot a poo 16” out of its nest. I calculate this to be 44% of the length of a 3 foot tall bird. Scientists (and we know they’re always right) have calculated that penguins take a dump with 4 times the force of a human.
This is not, as you might be tempted to think, for puerile entertainment in the dark Antarctic winter months but done for the purposes of hygiene. Penguins, like to keep their feathers and nests in pristine condition, apparently. You know the attitude: “Not in my back yard, Matey (but someone else’s is ok)”.
Now it seems that this sort of behaviour is not uncommon in the animal kingdom. The caterpillar of the silver-spotted skipper butterfly can shoot a turdette 4 feet. That's the same as humans firing their poo a massive 250ft. The mind boggles. Synchronize a couple of jamjars full of those little buggers and it would be like the afterburner of an F-16 fighter.
I wonder if I could patent this as an alternative, renewable energy source?