What’s more entertaining than poop? Don’t answer that…instead, be delighted and enlightened by these marine animal elimination facts.
Sea cucumbers: the pooping vacuums of the ocean
Interpreters at the Seattle Aquarium often describe the California sea cucumber as a living vacuum cleaner. A great analogy, but does it tell the whole story? Do sea cucumbers simply suck up waste from the ocean floor, never to be seen again? No, because sea cucumbers poop that waste out again. In fact, they serve an important role, redistributing dissolved nutrients on the sea floor.
The fascinating floating poop of sea otters
Have you been lucky (perhaps that’s not the right word) enough to spot floating feces in the sea otter exhibit during a visit to the Seattle Aquarium? There’s a reason their poop rises to the surface: sea otters have a rapid digestion time of less than two hours (compared to humans, which average a 24-hour digestion period). The quick flow of matter through their systems can cause undigested shells and air to be trapped in their waste—so much that it floats. That makes for easy cleanup for our animal care specialists, and also simplifies the scooping of poop for non-invasive hormone and health analysis. Hormone levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and corticosterone can offer insight into the otters’ cycles and stress levels, important information that helps us provide the best possible care for them.
“I’m eating fish poop so I’ll grow big and strong!”
If corals could talk, perhaps that’s what they’d say. In 2014, researchers from the University of Georgia confirmed what many aquarists had already suspected: that fish poop supplies the ideal ratio of nutrients to support coral growth. Scientists compared four different Caribbean coral sites and inventoried all the fish species at each site: 158 species and 71,000 individual fish. They then used mathematical models to predict the nutrient load from all these fish pooping. Though the total amount of nutrients produced by these fish differed from site to site, the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorous (20:1) was consistent across the board. Is it a coincidence that this ratio has been experimentally proven as ideal for coral growth? Probably not.
Want to learn more about marine animal poop? Talk to an interpreter during your next visit to the Seattle Aquarium!