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
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit
A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.
See the latest ranges, updates and special offers from our exciting new online shop.
Excerpts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.