Fish Are ‘Born Again’ Via Bird Butt

Rad diagram from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fish Eggs Can Hatch After Being Eaten and Pooped Out by Ducks

But actually, let me provide this wonderful slice of science with some context. You see, there’s been an unresolved question about how fish colonize and populate isolated bodies of water for some time now. This Scientific American article covers some of the ways it happens – over geologic time scales and through river systems that connect many lakes and ponds (plus human intervention for good measure) – but those can’t account for certain outlier scenarios.

Enter the Hungarian researchers willing to feed 8 ducks a total of 8,000 carp eggs and then poke through…8?…80?…800? pounds of duck poop (the article doesn’t say how much – probably for the better) to see if any eggs survived the intestinal log flume. 18 eggs were still kicking after their harrowing journey and a few even went on to hatch. No word on the psychological effects of pre-natal ingestion on the fish.

It’s pretty common for animals, and birds in particular, to spread plant populations through seeds in their poop (it’s called zoochory – and the survival of the Amazon might hinge on it), though nothing quite like this was previously imagined. While 18/8000 might not seem like a great survival rate, it’s actually more than enough considering all the hundreds of thousands of ducks eating millions upon millions of fish eggs annually – possibly while migrating great distances. The potential for spread is definitely there…which is not how you want to end an article about poop. Sorry!

(And yes, I know this isn’t technically marine-related, but if you think I’m gonna pass up low-hanging fruit like this you need to think again.)

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