SILLY SCIENCE FOR THE SERIOUS
Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal
Flatulence. By Dani Rabaiotti and Nick Caruso.
2018. Hachette Books. (ISBN 978-0316484152).
144 pp. Hardback, $15.00.
While it can be difficult to garner attention for
library books not related to student classes, this
particular tome has done much to cause more than
one person to stop and take a look. Due to its eye-catching title, it was placed on a New Books table
right near the library entrance. Students, staff,
and faculty alike would stop to examine it and even
read short snippets.
Learning is best done when the topic is interesting, and even better when it’s humorous. College students tend to do little outside reading and
thus miss the benefits of extracurricular learning.
It can open up new thinking, and a book on farts
can certainly lead to discussions of new facts with
This small volume contains short articles on
animal species that can be easily read and enjoyed.
It will serve as a reference and as the type of book
that anyone will pick up to check out stories of flatulence. And yes, the book is a gas!
It is hard to imagine covering every animal
species that farts. But while the claim in the
subtitle – “The Definitive Guide” – is overblown,
the book does have great vignettes of some animal
species that fart, some that do not, and a few whose
farting ability has not been determined.
The “high-pitched raspberry sound” of herrings allows these fish to communicate with each
other. Goats produce a lot of gas, both farts and
gaseous belching, and a plane load of goats once
set off an airplane fire alarm, forcing the plane to
The great hippopotamus also has great farts,
with feces mixed in. The short hippo tail acts like
a fan, what farmers used to call a manure
spreader. While hippo farts could be used for
marking territory, they may also be a way to break
down the piles of feces into small particles that
encourage rapid plant growth in the water, the
location where hippos often fart.
It was surprising to find that sloths do not fart,
as plant eaters tend to do so. They have a slow lifestyle, including digestion, needing to leave their
tree of safety only about once every five days to defecate. Their gas production is low, and it is
absorbed back into the tissues rather than released
as a fart.
One of our favorite stories of flatulence, not
included in the book, is that of head lice. Their
hatchling nymphs need to escape from the nit
(egg case). While still locked in, they suck in air
and release gas or flatus, creating “fart pressure,”
to pop the cap off the nit. This allows for their
escape to the hair and scalp.
Why do cockroaches fart? Why don’t we
know whether spiders release gas? What is the
biology behind sea lions having the smelliest
farts? Could we design some student projects
around these stories to stimulate some exciting
learning or research projects? These are some of
the questions having this delightful book in your
collection could raise.
This little book is recommended highly for
your classroom, library, or home, and we suggest
you leave it lying around where students and
others can see it and ask you about it. It is an
easy, fun read. Filled with details and interesting
stories, it captivates the reader and pulls everyone into the interesting world of the behavior
and physiology of animals.
Robert J. Wolff
Professor of Science and Health Science
Interim Library Director
Columbia, SC 29203
Redesigning Life: How Genome Editing Will
Transform the World. By John Parrington. 2016.
Oxford University Press. (ISBN 9780198766827).
352 pp. Hardcover, $39.95.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary
Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, which tells the story
of a young scientist who creates a grotesque but
self-aware creature as the result of a revolutionary
scientific experiment. For decades, science fiction
stories – in comic books, movies, television programs, and even university courses – have integrated the idea of the manipulation of genes by
scientists, well intentioned or otherwise, causing
superhuman and/or apocalyptic results for human
populations and the Earth as a whole. From the
cloning of Tyrannosaurus rex in “Jurassic Park” to
the genetic mutations of the X-Men, the engineering of genetic sequences infiltrates popular culture.
In some cases, movies and various philosophy
The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 81, No. 1, pp. 58–60, ISSN 0002-7685, electronic ISSN 1938-4211. © 2019 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights
reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page,
www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p=reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2019.81.1.58.
AMANDA L. GLAZE, DEPARTMENT EDITOR