Butterflies and Rabbits have one thing in common… Poo

There are thousands upon thousands of different animals out there. Each different animal species has a slightly different diet. Some animals eat grass, others eat bugs and some may eat other animals but did you know that some animals eat poo? These animals are called coprophagous.

Flies

There are many types of flies that feed on a variety of different substances. Some of these species feed on animal excrement. Adult flies may lay their eggs in poo so when their young hatch, they have something to feed on. Depending on the species, adult flies may include faeces in their diet as well.

"Granted it's not much of a superpower. But the flies seem to like it."

Dungbeetles

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Dungbeetle doing a handstand so we don’t need to deal with poo and flies

These guys are amazing. Dungbeetles were introduced to Australia to help control the fly population. Flies love poo and they lay their eggs in it so if there’s lots of poo around that means that the fly population is going to explode. If you take the poo away then you’re going to have less flies. Australia does have native dungbeetles but they are not interested in cattle dung so dungbeetles from overseas had to be brought to Australia. When dungbeetles were introduced in Australia it lowered our bush fly population by 90%! Dungbeetles get rid of our poo problem by constructing balls of poo in which they will lay their eggs. When their young hatch from the eggs, the poo is an excellent food source. Dungbeetles are capable of rolling 250 times their weight in poo in a single night! When the dungbeetles roll the manure into balls there is no poo left for the flies to lay their eggs in and the fly population decreases. This is an example of a biological control.

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Butterflies

Butterflies are found flitting between flowers collecting nectar but some butterflies eat manure. Butterflies are attracted to strong smells which may be the scent of a flower or the potent odour of faeces.

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Butterflies enjoying some faeces together

Rabbits

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The cecetrope that a rabbit would usually reconsume to remove remaining nutrients. After eating the food a second time they produce hard pellets that they will not eat.

Rabbits eat grass which is really hard to digest. The rabbit needs to eat grass twice so it can get all of the nutrients possible. The rabbit will eat grass once and then it will ‘poo out’ this grass in the form of a cecotrope. A cecotrope comes from the caecum which is a specialised section of the digestive tract (caecum) where fermentation takes place. The rabbit will then eat the cecotrope and so it can have another go at breaking down the grass.

 

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Rabbit eating its meal for the first time

Koalas

Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves which are not very nutritious. Every possible nutrient needs to be absorbed. The way the koala can do this is by making sure they have the right bacteria in their intestinal tracts. Mothers prepare their young for this by excreting a special type of poo for their young to eat. This is known as pap and is filled with bacteria.

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Koala joey knows that he has to eat his mother’s pap so he can break down eucalyptus leaves

Hamsters and guinea pigs

Hamsters and guinea pigs eat rough plant matter that is hard to digest. Sometimes, to get all the possible nutrients they eat their poo much like the rabbits do.

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Hamster eating tiny pizza

Not feeling so good…

There are some animals that may eat poo but it is not normal for them to. They are probably eating poo because they’re sick either from a physical or mental illness. Captive monkeys and apes are known for playing and eating with poo. The majority of the time this is because the animals are really stressed from overcrowding, poor diet or they can not cope living in a captive environment. If monkeys or apes are eating or playing with poo, it is usually a sign that they are sick either physically or mentally.

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Apes leading a happy and healthy life

Eat up your chicken faeces to make you big and strong

Cattle in Australia were once feed chicken faeces. This is because chicken faeces has a high nitrogen content which is great for growing big, strong cattle. It was also a great way to recycle waste produced at chicken farms. Cattle would not ordinarily choose this diet unless they were lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. This practice is now banned in Australia and poultry excrement is classed as a restricted animal material (RAM). This is because it can spread foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) which, is commonly referred to as mad cow disease.

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