Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence

by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti, Illustrated by Ethan Kocak 

This book is about “flatology, or the study of flatulence.” The authors are postdoctoral researchers with expertise in ecology and zoology, although they note that their life’s work is not dedicated to fart science. The book features 80 animals, each with one page of engrossing (or just gross) facts about their digestive process, including whether or not they fart.  For example…

Beaded Lacewing. “One species, Lomamyia latpennis, has a particularly ingenious way of stunning and killing its prey: it farts of them. The larva raises its tail toward the termite’s head and releases a potent allomone (a chemical that affects termite behavior) which paralyzes the termite and ultimately kills it. This allomone does not affect any other species of insect, or the larva itself, so this species of lacewing has evolved to produce a very specific chemical fart perfectly designed for its larval life inside the nest of its prey, one of the very few fatal farts known to science.”

Herring. “The Pacific and Atlantic herrings have both been found to gulp air from the surface of the water and store it in their swim bladders, later expelling it from their anal ducts in what is technically known as a Fast Repetitive Tick (FRT). FRTs produce a ‘high-pitched raspberry sound’ lasting between 0.6 and 7.6 seconds, at frequencies of between 1.7 and 22kHz.” Herring have better hearing than other fish species. “It is thought that they use FRTs to communicate with other members of their species… to find and stay close to other herring, especially at night when they can’t see each other.”

Bolson Pupfish. “It turns out that these fish have one of the most appropriate names in the animal kingdom, because the word ‘pups’ is German slang for fart… These fish like to bury themselves in the sediment, but when they are full of gas they… float to the surface. The only relief comes through farting, at which point the fish is able to right itself and swim normally.”

Bats. “As mammals, it seems likely that bats do fart, and they certainly have the right bacteria present in their gut. However, bat digestion is incredibly quick… Digestion only takes 12-34 minutes from mouth to anus. This could mean that bats don’t fart, or if they do, it may not be in audible quantities—certainly there appears to be no positive confirmation of bat farts in the scientific literature.”

Parrot. “Birds do not fart… The reported cases of parrot farts are more than likely ‘hot air’; instead, parrots are mimicking the sound of human farting—meaning any farts you hear from a parrot are coming from their mouth, not their cloaca!”

Spider. “Spider flatulence is an oddly understudied topic in scientific literature, but we can look their digestive system for some clues. Spiders do the vast majority of digestion outside their body, injecting their prey with venom from their fangs before ejecting sputum, full of digestive enzymes… They then wait while the digestive juices break down tissues inside the exoskeleton… Spiders will then suck up the liquidy goodness.”

Honey Badger. “Although these animals do fart… that is certainly not the smelliest thing about them!” They also have powerful anal scent glands. “These glands are used by the honey badger to mark its territory but also to secure its favorite food: honey. The smell from these glands is so potent that it is used by the badger to subdue bees in their nests—after a honey badger attack, bees can often be found huddled in a corner of their nest, far away from the pungent smell.”

Seal and Sea Lion. “These species feed on vast quantities of fish and, in a number of species, other marine invertebrates such as crabs. This is a surefire recipe for large quantities of potent, fishy-smelling farts (or in the case of leopard seals even penguin-smelling). Zookeepers have reported that sea lions in particular have the smelliest farts in the animal kingdom.”

Sea Cucumber. “Sea cucumbers breathe through something called a respiratory tree which is located in their cloaca (their equivalent to an anus). Some species of sea cucumbers which inhabit coral reefs have developed an interesting, butt-related defense mechanism. When threatened by potential predators they eject sticky parts of their respiratory system, known as cuvarian tubes, through their rear end, in a process known as evisceration. These threads can entangle predators, meaning the sea cucumber can escape unharmed. Although a sea cucumber’s bum might seem an unattractive place to hang out, some fish would disagree. Some species of pearlfish (Carapidae) actually live inside the cloaca and respiratory trees of sea cucumbers, safe from predators. They get their food by slowly consuming the sea cucumbers’ gonads when they get peckish. Although this is annoying for the sea cucumber… their incredible powers of regeneration mean their reproductive organs soon grow back.”

Sloth. Their gut flora does “produce a whole lot of methane, but instead of being farted out it is absorbed through the gut and into the bloodstream before being breathed out.”

Eastern Hognose Snake. “Like all snakes, the eastern hognose probably does fart. However, noxious odors are also used by these snakes to deter predation. When threatened, the eastern hognose snake will initially raise its head, puff out and flatten the skin around its neck and head, and hiss. If this aggressive behavior fails, the snake takes an alternate approach by playing dead. Individuals will roll over, open their mouths and stick out their tongues, then emit a foul-smelling musk from their cloacal glands in the hopes of ruining their attacker’s appetite.”

Woodlouse aka pillbug or roly-poly. “Woodlice… have an unusual way of eliminating their nitrogenous waste which, while technically not a fart, is impressive gas excretion nonetheless. In mammals, nitrogenous waste is converted into urea and excreted as a liquid, but woodlice excrete this waste as ammonia. By not converting ammonia into urea, woodlice are able to conserve more water and energy. Normally ammonia is toxic, but woodlice have a high resistance to it and can build up high ammonia concentrations within their tissues, where it is eventually excreted as a gas through their exoskeleton… typically short bursts of a few minutes, but it can last as long as an hour or more—which is likely one of the longest-known ‘farts’ in the animal kingdom.”

Fossa. “Its Latin name, Cryptoprocta means ‘hidden anus,’ which refers to the fact that its anus is obscured by a scent-gland-containing anal pouch, while the species name ferox refers to its ferocity…. Fossa flatus is much like the fossa: fierce.”

The authors also wrote True or Poo? The Definitive Field Guide to Filthy Animal Facts and Falsehoods and Believe It or Snot: The Definitive Field Guide to Earth’s Slimy Creatures.

Caruso, Nick, Dani Rabaiotti, and Ethan Kocak. Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence. Hachette Books, 2018. Buy from

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