Do not read this … it’s disgusting!

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All I can say about the grub in the accompanying pic is he’s a real show-off. And definitely not anal retentive. 

It reminds me of my early days at Upwey Primary School when the greatest challenge was to pee over the high red brick wall surrounding the boy’s toilet block. The aptly named “Peo” [Alan Pearson] being the champion.

The little critter illustrated, a nymph of some species I’m not sure of, (perhaps you could find out) reminds me of the prophets of doom in the late 19th century, who, apprehensive at the approach of the 20th century, feared that places like Nort Melbourne would soon be swamped by unmanageable piles of horse droppings. 

The expected was replaced by the unexpected. They hadn’t, of course, anticipated the automobile. If they were concerned about what came out of all those horses’ behinds it was nothing compared to the scale of the problems caused by what comes out of rear ends of the world’s motor cars!

If you were unlucky enough to fall ill back in the 1600s your local GP would no doubt have spent much time in examining your “doings” to find the cause of your ailment. This was not the most scientific of methods and today’s doctors have largely chucked the habit. 

It’s now left to small children and naturalists for whom old habits die hard. I even have a book on my shelves which deals entirely with the subject of animal poo and its contents. Studying these “scats”, of course, is not unlike ASIO agents searching a suspect’s rubbish bins in order to create a profile.

Rather than spending half a lifetime laying traps in order to estimate the population of some rare animal, a study of the droppings of its natural predators will indicate quite accurately not only the numbers of this endangered animal, but the general distribution as well.

The habit of marking territorial boundaries with their outpourings is a well-known animal trait, wallabies included. Refusing to hide their light under a bushel, they drop their little calling cards overtly upon the top of a rock. What better way to display your little sculpture than putting it on a pedestal?  

An added bonus, I imagine in the cool of the evening, when these macropods are most active, is the comfort of a heat retaining rock close to the bare behind being not unwelcome. This reminds me – I must check Ebay for heated toilet seats.

Just as many Australian plant seeds will only germinate after the heat of a bushfire, others, like those of the mistletoe (a parasite on many of our trees) will only spring to life after being eaten by the aptly named mistletoe bird and squirted out its rear end.

Blowflies, as we know, often display crude behaviour, and playing in rubbish tips is one of their favourite pastimes, but even when out in the wholesome countryside they will persist with bad habits. One, it appears, is chewing bubblegum.

This, of course, could be tolerated if only they’d obey their mothers and keep the darned stuff in their mouths, but they insist on blowing bubbles. They offer one lame excuse, that like cows they digest their food by regurgitating it and re-chewing it over and over.

Flies reckon this bubble blowing business helps them digest their breakfast. A likely story.   Oh, and while we’re talking cows … not a good idea to stand too close when they’re eating ... at either end. 

All the acid produced while digesting results in … well, let’s not go into detail. Let’s just say I would never advise sharing a bath with a cow.

Did you know wombats have cubular droppings? One just has to hope the corners are not too sharp. And that reminds me of another old theory where camels were once thought to be responsible for producing the pyramids (It was thought they may have triangular rectums). If faint hearted, please don’t read that previous sentence.

But seeing we’ve hit rock bottom (oops), what about dung beetles? These cute little critters love nothing better than rolling their little bundles home to the delight of the hungry kids.  Good thing too, otherwise, without their good work, we may all be knee deep in cow pats.   Our soil wouldn’t have benefited either without their efforts, so all in all, I say, “vive le dung beetle”.

A final point – did you know if you collected all the droppings of a single elephant over its entire lifetime and laid them out in one long line, you’d probably be locked up?

Well, I could go on talking about this delightful subject for hours, but I just noticed the time.  I have to shoot off to the cinema. They’re replaying Kenny.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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