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

The scientific study of poop is called scatology (ska‑TALL‑uh‑gee). When an animal poops, or defecates, its poop is packed with information.

Animal poop can tell what kind of animal left it and when. It can tell the animal’s age, size, and gender. It can tell us whether it ate meat or plants.

Not all animal poop is the same. An adult African elephant can drop more than 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of poop every day! Squirrels poop bean‑size droppings. Wombats poop out cubes. Some sharks have twisted intestines and poop in spirals.

The purpose of poop goes beyond just getting rid of waste. Poop can spread seeds. It can create sandy island beaches. It can be used as a weapon. Poop marks territory and scares other animals away. It can even be a building block for shelters.

Poop With a Purpose

The tambaqui fish is a fruit- and seed‑eating fish in the Amazon River. It eats the seeds of water plants. Seeds that aren’t digested are pooped out and “planted” as far as 5,000 meters (3 miles) away.

plants seeds


makes sand


Have you ever been to a white‑sand beach? You may have been standing on parrotfish poop! Parrotfish nibble on coral reefs. When it's time to poop, they poop out sand—bits of crushed corals. One parrotfish can produce more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of white coral sand each year. The sand washes ashore and piles up.

Leaf beetles cover their eggs in poop that then hardens. The larvae later break a hole in these cases and use them as mobile homes. Other beetle hatchlings build towers of poop. They can also use them as shields.

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 examples:

castings – worms
droppings – birds
dung – cattle, elephants
fewmets – deer
frass – insects
guano – bats, seabirds
scat – wild animals
spraints – otters