ZSL PhD student Daniella Rabaiotti has co-authored 'Does it Fart', which is now available to buy in the UK. Here she explains how the idea for the book came about.
As a PhD student at ZSL, and graduate in zoology, I often get asked a lot of questions about animals, varying from the interesting to the downright bizarre. In January this year a member of my family asked me ‘do snakes fart’. It was a question that would turn out to have surprising repercussions.
I realised I did not know whether snakes farted, but I knew someone who would – David Steen, a wildlife biologist and snake expert at Auburn University. I got in touch with him through Twitter, asking whether snakes farted (‘Sigh, yes’ was the answer!). Zoologists quickly realised that we get this question a lot about animals, and it quickly spawned a hashtag - #DoesItFart. In the true nature of science I proposed we begin a spreadsheet of animal species and whether they fart or don’t, and zoologists, ecologists, and pet owners swiftly began filling in their own species and anecdotes about animal farts.
Did you know that herring use farts to communicate? And that a scientific paper about this won the authors an IgNobel prize? Beaded lacewing larvae have literally deadly farts – they produce a chemical from their rear ends that kills termites, which they then devour. Researchers of chimps and baboons often locate their study animals using the sound of the primate’s farts, which vary in volume depending on what they have been eating. And hyena farts smell worse after they have been eating camel intestines. These are just some of the gems that we found out through our #DoesItFart spreadsheet (and if this interests you you can find out more in our book!).
So far, so fun. But within a few weeks it had been picked up by media outlets, in particular Gizmodo and Washington Post, who wrote articles about scientists populating a database about animal farts. From there it blew up. I appeared on Canadian TV, radio, podcasts, in the Times and various other websites and print media, all to talk about our animal fart database. Around a month after the initial hashtag I had an email in my inbox from the hashtag starter – Nick Caruso, a PhD student at Alabama University – explaining that Quercus, a UK publisher, would like to offer us a book deal, and asking if I was up for it. Of course I said yes.
From there we spent our weekends researching and writing the book, scanning the scientific literature, tweeting database contributors to gather anecdotes and emailing experts to check out our facts. We also brought in webcomic illustrator and fellow Twitter contributor Ethan Kocak, who produced fantastic illustrations based on our text. Our publishers were incredibly supportive and together we produced over 200 pages of humorous animal fart facts and pictures. And so, the book became reality, I co-authored a book with someone I have never met, and we became famous for animal farts.
Select a blog
Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.
At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.
Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!
We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.
From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.
Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.
Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.
ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.
An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.