Mammoth Ate Own Poo

Why did woolly mammoth go extinct? Scientists discovered that the none-too-smart animal enjoyed - and I quote - "poo-snack":

... a team led by Bas van Geel of the University of Amsterdam found fungus spores deep inside a piece of mammoth dung that can only grow on the outside of dung. Only way that can happen is if the mammoth eats the fungus, which means eating poo. Their work is in press in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

This is the second time evidence has been found that mammoths enjoyed poo-snacks — "coprophagy" to scientists — the first was in 2006. In some ways it's even more important than the first discovery, though, because it means the initial finding wasn't a fluke: mammoths made a habit of eating their own excrement.

It may sound gross to you or me, but coprophagia (that's the fancy scientific word for eating poo) may actually serve a valid purpose:

Microbes that feasted on poo left behind high concentrations of vitamin K, B12, and B7, making mammoth pies a great way to get essential nutrients. That would've gone double for any time when food was scarce and/or the animals were stressed and in need of a prehistoric PowerBar.

"The indication that the adult mammoth had eaten feces (its own or that of another’s) is interesting, but not remarkably strange. Young elephants eat the feces of their mother to obtain the necessary bacteria for the proper digestion of the vegetation found on the savanna.

"This behavior may have a marked effect upon the type and function of the intestinal flora. Coprophagy is an important means of making a variety of nutrients synthesized by intestinal microflora available to animals.


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This isn't the slightest bit remarkable. Tons of animals eat feces. Some animals require eating their own poop to survive, because the bacteria late in the gut produce beneficial nutrients too late for the body to absorb it.
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