The internet wanted to know which animals fart, so scientists happily obliged

Elephants do fart, according to biologists
Elephants do fart, according to biologists
Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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Scientists take on the most important challenges of our time, like combating climate change, fighting cancer, exploring the outer realms of our universe, or characterizing matter itself.

But sometimes they answer questions like whether or not frogs fart.

This week, a conservation researcher named Dani Rabaiotti at University College London took to Twitter to ask fellow ecologists and biologists an important question: #Doesitfart? Ever searching for knowledge, responders created an open spreadsheet to log whether or not different species pass gas.

Flatulence happens when gases that have been accidentally swallowed or produced while breaking down food (dairy and fried foods tend to produce more) escape through the anus. Human farts range in volume from “a bottle of nail polish to a can of soda,” as FiveThirtyEight diligently reports, and the smells vary depending on the types of gases they’re made of—hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are particularly pungent.

Although we all fart (admit it), not all animals do. The table below is what scientists were able to provide. Some of the answers are obviously silly—we have no idea if aliens fart, and extinct animals like mastodons definitely don’t—but some include insightful scientific observation. Birds do not fart, for example, because they have different bacteria that live in their guts that don’t produce the same gaseous byproducts.

More interesting than whether or not animals fart, though, were some of the accompanying descriptions in the notes section. We put together a quiz based on these that you can take to see if you can identify an animal from a scientist’s account of its fart.

On a separate page of the spreadsheet researchers began documenting whether or not animals puke. In humans, vomiting occurs when the stomach is compressed by your abdominal muscles and rapidly expels whatever contents were inside. It can be physically triggered by the stomach feeling too full, or neurologically when the brainstem senses poison in the blood or extreme emotional distress.

As you might expect, animal puking habits vary as well: Vultures have highly acidic vomit (handy for breaking down carcasses), which they upchuck as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened. Mites and spiders reportedly throw up, and the scientists who responded disagree about whether or not horses do; one responder said they don’t, while the other said they do, except it comes through their noses.

This open-sourced spreadsheet doesn’t hold up to the standards of, say, a peer-reviewed study, although some researchers provided their Twitter handles so that the data could be traced to the source. And there is something special about the way that researchers join forces on the internet to provide answers to highly sought-after questions.