The Most Disgusting Quiz
Have you ever watched a dog eat its own poo, or felt bird droppings fall on your head? Perhaps you’ve noticed how flies buzz around rubbish… and then land on your lunch – ugh!
Animals do many gross things, things that might seem disgusting to you and I, but are actually really clever. It’s time to test your knowledge of all things revolting and repugnant in the natural world.
But readers beware: with facts and illustrations taken from our book Poo, Spew and Other Gross Things Animals Do!, this quiz may leave you feeling quite disgusted.
#1. Mother dogs often eat the poo of their puppies… but why?
Mother dogs often eat the poo of their puppies, which keeps their dens clean and helps hide the pups from predators that might be attracted by the stink of puppy poo.
#2. In what gross substance have ornate narrow-mouthed frogs been found to live?
Scientists found some of these frogs sheltering in elephant dung!
Frogs are amphibians, and need to keep moist and spend most of their time in water or more humid environments, so they don’t dry out. In the hot, dry savannah where the elephants live, the frogs might have taken to the piles of poo to keep cool and comfortable.
Elephant dung is also often full of half-digested bits of plant, as well as bugs and other tasty tidbits, providing snacks for the frogs in between snoozes.
#3. The titan arum, or corpse flower, is famous for stinking of rotten flesh. But why does it smell that way?
The corpse flower smells rancid, and is even the colour of rotting animal flesh, attracting carnivorous flies, beetles and other insects looking for a juicy feed.
They land on the huge flower, only to be disappointed to find a sneaky plant, and not the deliciously dead animal they were searching for. As the insects fly away, they take with them the flower’s pollen, unwittingly spreading it to other corpse flowers, pollinating them and keeping the species alive.
#4. Why do some birds poo on themselves?
A lot of birds cool down in hot weather by pooing on themselves!
Scientists call this practice urohidrosis (EUR-oh-hy-DROH-siss). Birds caught in the act of this particularly gross form of personal airconditioning include storks, condors, flamingos and some vultures.
#5. A lot of the sparkling white sand on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches is actually:
Parrotfish eat coral to get at the algae, bacteria and polyps (small animals) that live inside. But what goes in must come out.
Once the coral has been ground up in their body, the parrotfish poop it back out onto the reef, making beautiful, white sand!
The largest parrotfish can poop out up to five tonnes of sand a year – more than enough for you to spread your beach towel on!
#6. What does the Greater Short-horned Lizard do to defend itself from predators?
Greater short-horned lizards can shoot blood out of their eyes – straight into the mouths of their much larger predators. They only use this form of defence as a last resort, against four-legged predators like coyotes, kit foxes and bobcats.
#7. Also known as the stinkbird, the hoatzin lives in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. How is its digestion similar to that of a cow?
This rather extravagant-looking bird largely eats leaves, which can only be broken down through fermentation by bacteria.
A bit like cows, sheep or goats, hoatzins digest their food in their enlarged oesophagus (ee-SOF-ah-guss) and crop, instead of in their stomach, thanks to the help of millions of bacteria. They are the only bird in the world that does this. This explains why the birds smell so bad – a bit like cow farts.
#8. Autocoprophagy (OR-toh-KOP-row-FAY-gee) is a big word for which gross habit some animals have:
The practice of eating one’s own poo is called autocoprophagy. For some animals, eating their poo isn’t just normal – it’s vital. Why? You’ll have to read our book Poo, Spew and Other Gross Things Animals Do to find out!
#9. Koala mums produce something called "pap" for their joeys to eat. What is pap?
Just when koala joeys are first leaving the pouch, their mums start to produce a runny type of poo called pap.
Pap is rich in good bacteria, and guess what the joeys do… they eat it! Who said medicine was meant to taste good?
#10. Why did Australia import dung beetles from overseas in the 1950s?
Australia has more than 500 local, or endemic species of dung beetles. They have been busily munching on kangaroo, wombat and bandicoot poo for millions of years. But when cows were brought to this country, the native dung beetles didn’t have any interest in their giant, sloppy poo.
In the late 1950s, entomologist George Bornemissza had a clever idea to import dung beetles that were adapted to cow poo from Europe.
By working the poo back into the soil, the beetles improved the soil’s health. This also kept waterways clearer of poo and reduced the spread of diseases.
How’d you score? Does your knowledge stink?
Time to take a deep breath and step into the world of all the gross things animals do to survive and thrive, by reading our book, Poo, Spew and Other Gross Things Animals Do!
Written by Nic Gill and Romane Cristescu, with artwork by Rachel Tribout, the book will show you how being gross isn’t just hilarious – it can be an important survival strategy for animals all over the world.
Available in good bookstores and online!
Nic Gill is a Tasmanian author, environmental writer and conservation dog handler. Her dog, Zorro, is a Tasmanian masked owl vomit detection dog, and is also an avid consumer of books, albeit in a more literal sense than Nic would like.
Her first book, Animal Eco-Warriors, was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book.
Dr Romane Cristescu trained and worked as a vet in France before relocating to Australia to study koalas.
She is also a poo science evangelist, who likes nothing more than discussing the illuminating qualities of animal excrement at otherwise polite parties.
Rachel Tribout is an illustrator and graphic designer originally from France, now based in Australia.
She’s the illustrator of Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish, which was shortlisted for both the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards and the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature.