Don’t read this book if you are squeamish. ‘The reason we are not up to our necks in faeces is that one creature’s poo is another animal’s lunch.’ You might (like me before I read this book) believe that every animal defecates. But you would be wrong: mayflies do not; they do not eat and they only live for a day.
There is a tremendous amount of information here. But the author shares some general principles that help us put the facts into a context. Children will learn, for example, that the nature of the food eaten is the key to the kind of excreta produced. So a main way of categorizing waste products is according to whether the animal is a meat eater or a vegetarian. Meat eaters like tigers, lions and foxes produce faeces containing fur, feathers and bone from the creatures they have eaten. Herbivores have to eat all the time to get enough nourishment and defecate a lot of the time too. The amount of water an animal drinks also affects the character of its stools.
Interesting technical words – ‘chitin’, ‘coprophages’, ‘frass’, ‘graminivore’, ‘piscivore’ and ‘spraints’ – are introduced and further explained in the glossary.
The illustrations are outstanding – witty, original and helpfully labelled and annotated. This is a simply brilliant natural history book that will raise a smile and communicate sound scientific concepts and information.