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Why Some Animals Eat Poop

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 Biology   |   Science
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While humans do eat a lot of weird food items, one thing we never touch is fecal matter. This is because not only are we naturally grossed out by it, but also because we know that poop contains a lot of nasty pathogens that can get us really sick. However, for many animals, feces is actually quite a common item on their sustenance menu. While we may view poop as dangerous, its not as scary as we think. While eating poop from sick people can be an issue as it can contain viruses, parasites, and bacteria, healthy poop often contains harmless bacteria, a lot of water, some undigested food, some dead cells, and some metabolic waste. No harmful viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
This is why a lot of poison control centers dont actually consider the accidental ingestion of poop, whether it is animal or human, to be life threatening.
Rather, they consider it minimally toxic.
Some doctors even prescribe poop pills to those who have hard time to combat gut infections, as poop can be extremely nutritious and help reset the gut bacteria to healthy levels. The digestive process cannot possibly suck out every single nutrient from your food, so your poop is going to contain some percentage of nutrition. For instance, herbivores have a third of their digested food nutrients left in their poop. This is why flies and dung beetles can subsist entirely on the nutrients of poop from the animals they follow around.
Some Animals Can Live Off of Poop Entirely!
One of the reasons why pigsties are generally considered very filthy is because for thousands of years, humans actually built toilets over them and fed the pigs their poop. This is because pigs can actually get most of their nutrition intake from human fecal matter.
Dogs on the other hand, may scarf down any poop they come across, but some will actually use their keen sense of smell to only find fresh poop. More than this, some dogs will only sniff out poop that has enzymes and vitamins that their body is craving. Neat, eh!?
Some animals will even extract nutrients from their poop in order to meet their dietary needs. Gorillas for example, will feed on the Dialium Tree seeds which are very hard. While their gut bacteria can soften these seeds up, their gut finds it hard to actually extract their nutrients in the first pass. So, gorillas will actually eat their own excrement when they are having a hard time finding food. Another animal that can extract nutrients from their excrement are the Southern Cassowary who eats Cassowary plums. These plums are fairly large in size and the Southern Cassowary has a very short digestive system, so they end up passing chunks of the fruit through their poop. The Cassowary simply turns around, picks out these chunks, and eats them again to get the nutrients.

Some Animals Must Eat Their Own Poop for Survival Reasons
For some animals, eating their own poop is a must. For instance, rabbits must eat their own poop because they have very short digestive systems. A cow, who has a long, complex, digestive tract doesnt have to eat their poop because the microbes have enough time to break down the hard plant cells. A rabbits microbes dont have enough time and so, they poop out a soft mucus covered cluster of partially digested food and microbes. This package is then eaten by the rabbit, which recovers the nutrients that were not digested in the first pass. Once this is done, the rabbit will poop out pellets.
Baby koalas must also eat poop in order to survive, but specifically, their mothers poop. This is because koala babies are not born with the specific bacteria needed to break down their diet of eucalyptus leaves which are heavily toxic and fibrous. So instead, the baby eats pap, which is a soft green poop that the mother excretes. It is full of bacteria and nutrients that gives the baby the required microbes to digest the eucalyptus leaves.

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