In order to survive in the dog-eat-dog wild, animals have to get crafty. Because of this – in some cases – natural selection has favored animals that use their dung to carry out tasks necessary to perseverance and reproduction. This includes animals that use their droppings for food, protection, and... courtship. And, of course, given how many animals that use creative tools there are, it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise that some use their waste in inventive ways, like building things with it. Really, humans could learn a thing or two from the animal kingdom's best examples of waste recyclers.
Dung beetles are pretty interesting little characters. The ancient Egyptians were big fans of the dung beetle, believing that the insect was in charge of the Earth’s revolutions. Just like their name suggests, they have a pretty intimate relationship with poop. The beetles spend their time flying around looking for piles of animal poo – primarily in the market for the black gold from cows and elephants. Once they find a nice “pat,” they roll some of it up and then go looking for a mate. If they come across a female that is impressed by their fecal orb, the two will then set off to pick a spot to start their family. Once a worthy plot of land is found, the male buries the dung in the ground, which is the spot where the female will deposit a single egg. The dung ball serves as protection and nourishment for the developing beetle babies. The adult beetles feed on the microorganism-rich, liquid component of the dung – providing them with energy to keep rockin’ and dung rollin’.
Fall armyworm caterpillars have been slowly crafting a devious plan to sneak past the defenses of certain plants and feast on their leaves! If the plants fall for the ruse, the caterpillars will be able to pig out and ultimately grow much faster. So what is this dubious scheme? It’s simple – the caterpillars just poop on the plants. Wait, what?
In addition to insects, bacteria and fungi also feed on plants. But plants can only protect themselves from one predator at a time. So when the caterpillars defecate on the plants, the plants believe they are being assailed by a microbial threat. Therefore, they attempt to protect themselves from the pathogen, allowing the caterpillars to sneak in through the back door and access their leaves.
Vultures have an interesting (and cheap!) way of staying cool in the summer. While many might hit the local lake or pond to take a dip, vultures don’t even leave their perch; they just poop and pee on their feet in order to bring their body temperatures down. No wonder they don’t get invited to any pool parties! This is known as urohidrosis, and it is actually a decent way for them to wash off too. Vultures' diets consist of dead and decaying animals, so they have developed strong gastric juices to kill all of the bacteria. This makes their fecal matter safe and even effective for killing bacteria because of the high uric acid content.
Additional fun fact: if they feel threatened, they will projectile vomit at the attacker. They can send their vomit up to 10 feet! That’s further than Jimmy hurled after his first beer bong.
Although they are called "pygmy" and "dwarf," these sperm whales are still pretty big creatures, but even they get frightened sometimes. And when they do, the poop really gets flowing. That's because they use their anuses, on occasion, as defense mechanisms. It is similar to someone getting the poop scared out of them, except way more effective for self preservation. Similar to the method of inking that squids use, this liquid is brown and comes from an intestinal sac. It is shot out through the anus, and the whale whirls it around to create a liquid smoke screen, which allows it to make its getaway. Some researchers lovingly refer to this defense mechanism as the "poo-nado."