Scientists are embarking on the noblest of data-gathering missions, delivering us laypeople the animal information we all sorely wanted but were too timid to ask about.
Image: Getty Images/Keith Bishop
Which animals fart?
The open, online spreadsheet "Does it Fart" began with a tweet. A family member asked Daniella Rabaiotti, a PhD student at the Zoological Society of London, whether snakes farted. She didn't know and tweeted her question at David Steen, an ecologist at Auburn University in Alabama. The answer:
<sigh> yes. https://t.co/Y2L00dcDZV
— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) January 8, 2017
Soon, scientists across Twitter were tweeting about the various animals they studied with the #DoesItFart hashtag. University of Alabama PhD candidate Nicholas Caruso decided to compile all of the responses in one shared Google spreadsheet.
— Nick Caruso (@PlethodoNick) January 8, 2017
"I figured the best way to find out if a particular animal farts would be to ask the people who spend the most time with them. Which includes people who study them, or maybe people who keep them at home, or just happened to hear one fart," Caruso told Gizmodo in an email. "Using a Google sheet that anyone can go in and edit seemed like the best way to get the most info as we can and engage as many people as possible." Obviously user-submitted responses not subject to any verification or oversight should be taken with a grain of salt.
The spreadsheet has 63 entries already, and is as tongue-in-cheek as the hashtag — the first entry as of this morning was "Aliens". But scientific papers or anecdotal experience from researchers and pet owners back the serious list items. Do chimpanzees fart? Yes. "Worst when eating figs. So loud and frequent we locate them in forest occasionally by following the farts; Even worse when eating Cynometra seeds! Fibre!" wrote University of Kent evolutionary anthropology PhD candidate Adriana Lowe. Tapirs? Yes, "in great amplitude," wrote Lewis Bartlett, an ecology PhD student at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and the University of California, Berkeley.
Tweeting scientists have now started a #DoesItPuke hashtag as well.
— Aerin Jacob (@Aerin_J) January 9, 2017
Compiling a database of flatulence across the animal kingdom is certainly an entertaining distraction — but Rabaiotti was also excited to see laypersons getting in conversations with scientists on Twitter over a topic of universal interest. "We've had a lot of teachers online who want to teach a classes about it," said Rabaiotti. "It's great to see the public engage with scientists, really."