Nearly all animals poop. It’s how their bodies get rid of solid waste. That could be food that their digestive systems can’t break down or use for energy and health. It could also be gross things like germs or dead blood cells.

The scientific study of poop is called scatology (ska‑TALL‑uh‑gee). And yes, people do study it. Especially animal poo. Why? Because when an animal defecates, or poops, its poop is packed with information.

Scientists have studied poop from creatures as far back as the dinosaurs. A plop of poop is a puzzle piece to them. They can tell what kind of animal left it and when; the animal’s age, size, and gender; its overall health; and whether it ate meat (carnivore) or plants (herbivore).

Not all animals poop the same way. Sloths poop once a week; geese average once every 12 minutes. An adult African elephant can drop more than 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of poop every day!

Poop comes in many shapes and sizes. Squirrels poop bean‑size droppings. Wombats poop out cubes. Some sharks have twisted intestines and poop in spirals. Others blast out yellowish poop clouds that smaller fish feast on.

The purpose of poop has other benefits beyond just getting rid of waste. Poop can spread seeds. It can create sandy island beaches. It can be used as a weapon or a shield. Poop acts as a message board, marks turf, and scares other animals away. Poop can be a building block for shelters. It can even help regulate body temperature. Who knew?

Poop With a Purpose

The tambaqui fish has a green thumb (or fin), and it doesn’t even know it. It’s a fruit- and seed‑eating fish in the Amazon. It eats the seeds of water plants. Seeds that aren’t digested are pooped out and “planted” elsewhere—some as far as 5,000 meters (3 miles) away.

plants seeds


makes sand


Algae‑eating parrotfish nibble algae off of coral reefs. When it’s time to poop, they poop out sand—bits of crushed corals. Just one parrotfish can produce more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of fine white sand each year. It washes ashore or collects in places, building and maintaining other coral reefs. If you have ever been to a white‑sand beach, you may have been playing in parrotfish poop.

Leaf beetles cover their eggs in droppings that then harden. The hatched larvae later break a hole in these cases and use them as mobile homes. Other beetle hatchlings build towers of poop they can use as shields and daggers. This protective cover can be made in as little as 12 hours and may contain chemicals toxic to other insects.

leaf beetle

leaf beetle

makes homes


Humans’ solid waste is called stool, feces (FEE‑seas), and excrement (EX‑crum-ent). Animals’ waste has different names, too. Here are a few and the animals most often associated with them:

dungcattle, elephants
guanobats, seabirds
scatwild animals