Science Is Answering A Burning Question About Which Animals Pass Gas

By Travis Greenwood

We know from a popular book that everyone poops, but does everyone — and every species — pass gas? That's the burning question behind #doesitfart, a hashtag that raised an unexpected stink on Twitter last week.

Science Is Answering A Burning Question About Which Animals Pass Gas
credit: Adobe Stock

Like so many things on the interwebs, it started with a seemingly innocent prompt. Enter Dani Rabaiotti, a PhD student at the Zoological Society of London, who took to the microblogging platform after she was stumped by a query from her teenage brother.

David Steen, an Assistant Research Professor of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation with Auburn University, waded in to clear the air around this very important topic.

His emphatic response led a second PhD candidate at the University of Alabama, Nick Caruso, to coin the odorous hashtag — and scientists around the globe were soon sharing their research around it.

Like this tweet, which is v. fascinating.

And this rather descriptive one.

A doctor went so far as to visualize the phenomena with pie charts.

Trending so hard was the hashtag that even an astrophysicist shared her professional opinion.

Because the scientific method is nothing if not transparent and collaborative, Caruso opened a new Google spreadsheet to archive the (more serious) responses. All the better: these files of flatulence are readable and editable to everyone.

At present, the doc lists 79 critters, everything from manatees ("near constantly") to millipedes ("Yes, of the silent but deadly variety (methane AND hydrogen sulfide!)"). Also included: A related tab for #doesitpuke, a secondary hashtag that piggybacked on the popularity of the first.

#DoesItFart spreadsheet
credit: #DoesItFart

While the majority of the entries have been "verified", a small subset, like unicorns ("it's glitter and rainbows soft serve") come from sources unknown and should be taken with a measure of skepticism (they sure are fun to LOL at, though).

However juvenile the subject may seem on the surface, researchers who normally toil away in relative Twitter obscurity welcomed the exposure and were appreciative of the opportunity to draw the general public into scientific discussions.

One dog sticking his butt out and the other looking away
credit: WilleeCole/iStock/GettyImages

In an interview with The Washington Post, Steen explained why:

"I don't know if animal flatulence questions can serve as a significant gateway to a greater appreciation of biodiversity, but it is always fun to see what captures people's attention," he said. "It is at least an opportunity to engage with a larger audience and bring new folks into the conversation."