“Does it fart?” A question zoologists field more often than not from groups of children visiting zoos. But far from being a question designed to disrupt or distract, scientists are now attempting to use the question to invite engagement.
Dani Rabaiotti of the Zoological Society of London shared that the #DoesItFart venture started when her teenage brother asked whether snakes experienced flatulence. From her own research into wild dogs, Rabaiotti knew that the African wild dog and the seals of the island of South Georgia in the Atlantic did. But she wasn’t as sure about snakes. So she consulted snake expert, David Steen. Steen, confirmed that they do. Snakes even discharge excrement and a musk scent as a means of defense.
Steen confirmed often answering this question from preteens. Although not certain of its relevance to the scientific community just yet, he does acknowledge that the question does present opportunities for engagement with a larger audience.
With this in mind, the scientists came up with the hashtag #DoesItFart, as well as a Google Spreadsheet detailing the flatulence habits of more than 60 animals.
Aside from the African wild dog, seals and snakes, other animals that pass gas include rats, zebras and bearded dragons. Inverterbrates such as marine creatures oysters, mussels and crabs are sadly flatulent-challenged.
Silliness aside, the venture, along with other hashtags created by scientists (#JunkOff and #FieldWorkFail for example) provide scientists with a platform to collect data, and also share interesting facts that do not necessarily have any bearing on their research.
For another bit of flatulence-related trivia – millipedes do actually pass gas. And according to researchers, the arthropods create a significant amount of methane gas, and unlike animals that have soft, fleshy bottoms, millipedes have hard valves which scientists believe act as silencers.