June 7, 2008

Penguin poop. Also: blogging secrets revealed

Adélie penguin in nest decorated with popular "sunburst" pattern.

Lore Sjöberg of Wired presents his Secrets of the 7 Basic Blog Posts, at least five of which are too close for comfort. The 7 Basic Posts [see link for dead-on analysis] are:

1. Be upset!
2. Buy a thing!
3. Animals are cute!
4. People are dumb!
5. Something I like, only different!
6. Weird science!
7. Me, the blogger!

Add an extra category, Posts About Mine Own Blog, and I'd have to slit my wrists.

Pressures produced when penguins pooh first appeared in Polar Biology back in 2003. Therefore not timely, but my attempt at an end-run around the seven categories above. Besides, I like penguins: this is one of my favorite books. Yes, I'm twelve. Hat tip to TED's "eccentric genius multimillionaire" Nathan Myhrvold for discussing penguin poo in front of a paying audience. No wonder he's rich.

From the Polar Biology article:
Penguins spend most of their life in the water. An extended period ashore only occurs during breeding [...] Brooding penguins, in order to relieve themselves, do not leave their stony nest, but move to the edge of it, stand up, turn their back nest-outward, bend forward, lift their tail, and shoot. The expelled material hits the ground maximally 40±12 cm away from the bird and then leaves behind a whitish or pinkish streak that can end a few centimetres from the nest's periphery and may be up to 1 cm wide. The colour of the streak depends on whether the penguin had enjoyed a meal of fish (mostly white) or krill (pinkish).
See the photo at the top of this post? Those streaks radiating from the nest are penguin droppings. Looks petroglyph-y and creative.

As far as anyone knows, the penguins don't seem have any particular pattern in mind:

Whether the bird deliberately chooses the direction into which it decides to expel its faeces or whether this depends on the direction from which the wind blows at the time of evacuation are questions that need to be addressed on another expedition to Antarctica.
More cool bird poop facts:
In a process called urohydrosis, California Condors defecate on their legs to reduce their core body temperature. Storks and New World Vultures also display this behavior. The white uric acid coats the legs and protects vultures from harmful bacteria. The droppings produced by Turkey Vultures and other vultures can harm or kill trees and other vegetation. [See the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for more.]

Finally, a photo of a baby penguin mooning the photographer practicing his mad pooping skillz. He and his sibling are giggling hysterically and their mom is like, "Two more months. Two more months..."

The End.

1 comment:

Bill Fosher said...

Q: what's the white stuff in bird poop?

A: more bird poop.

From a fellow twelve year old. Or maybe I'm seven.