Ecosystem of Feces
Key terms + definitions
Benzopyrrole volatiles – a white or yellowish heterocyclic compound extracted from coal tar easily evaporated at normal temperatures (C8H7N). (7)
Coprophagia – the eating of feces or dung. (7)
Epithelial – relating to or denoting the thin tissue forming the outer layer of a body’s surface and lining the alimentary canal and other hollow structures. (7)
Fecal Inoculation – the introduction of a pathogen or antigen into a living organism to stimulate the production of antibodies by consuming feces. (7)
Feces – waste matter discharged from the bowels after food has been digested; excrement. (7)
Giardiasis – infection of the intestine with a flagellate protozoan, which causes diarrhea and other symptoms. (7)
Heterocyclic – denoting a compound whose molecule contains a ring of atoms of at least two elements (one of which is generally carbon). (7)
Indole – is an aromatic heterocyclic organic compound. (7)
Methanethiol (also known as methyl mercaptan) – an organosulfur compound with the chemical formula CH3SH. It is a colorless gas with a distinctive putrid smell. This compound is disposed of in feces. (7)
Porphyria – a rare hereditary disease in which the blood pigment hemoglobin is abnormally metabolized. Porphyrins are excreted in the urine, which becomes dark; other symptoms include mental disturbances and extreme sensitivity of the skin to light. (7)
pH – (potential of hydrogen) is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. It is approximately the negative of the base 10 logarithm of the molar concentration, measured in units of moles per liter, of hydrogen ions. (7)
Skatole – a mildly toxic white crystalline organic compound belonging to the indole family. (7)
Stercobilin – tetrapyrrolic bile pigment and is one end-product of heme catabolism. It is the chemical responsible for the brown color of human feces and was originally isolated from feces in 1932. (7)
Urobilin or urochrome – the chemical primarily responsible for the yellow color of urine. (7)
Volatile – easily evaporated at normal temperatures. (7)
Yucca schidigera – a flowering plant that is native to the Mojave Desert, Chihuahuan Desert and Sonoran Desert of southeastern California, Baja California, New Mexico, southern Nevada and Arizona. (7)
Many people think that is just a ‘waste’ of time. But it a very important ecosystem needed in our world. It does many things, for example, cockroaches use their feces as a social network. It is their equivalent of Facebook, Poopbook! Whale feces also is essential as it produces iron, which is essential for krill to multiply, so in a way its poop provides a breeding ground for its food. In this paper I will address various elements of feces as an ecosystem including; abiotic and biotic elements, predators, population, biodiversity, classification, climate, ecology, pH, and global warming.
Feces and all its components are abiotic. This means it not living.
Biotic + Biodiversity
The biotic elements of a fecal ecosystem are the coprophagia, the body/animal that the feces
comes from. There are also 1×1011 (100 billion) bacteria on each gram of human feces. (8)
Salmonella https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b4/SalmonellaNIAID.jpg/1200px-SalmonellaNIAID.jpg “web” 12/01/18
These bacteria can range from salmonella, to pathogenic viruses (very low concentrations). Other bacteria residing in feces include; E. coli, shigella, Yersinia (at 30oC), campylobacter (at 42oC), aeromonas, candida (if immunosuppressed), cryptosporidium, Entamoeba histolytica, and intestinal parasites ex. Pinworms and their eggs(ova). (5)
Coprophagia are the predators of feces. Coprophagia consume feces as a meal.
Coprophagia https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Ch.megacephala_wiki.jpg “web” 12/01/18
These species include; dung beetles, termites, elephants, giant pandas, koalas, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, naked mole rats, carnivorous plants, dogs, and gorillas (rarely). Some coprophagia consume feces for a source of vitamins B and K (Hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, naked mole rats). Dogs will consume their own feces if they are lacking in nutrients. In the case of gorillas, they consume feces occasionally for a fresh warm meal. Most coprophagia consume feces for nourishment (Dung beetles, termites, elephants (young), giant pandas (young), koalas (young)). Humans can consume another person’s feces if they are perfectly healthy. However, consuming someone else’s can expose you to any disease they have. Although, if you consume another healthy person’s feces it can cure many different diseases you may have (ex. Diarrheal infection), this process is called a fecal inoculation. In other ecosystems predators use feces to track their prey because feces reflects ultra violet light. Predators simply follow the trail of feces to find their prey. Some animals consume feces to obtain essential gut flora.
Composition of feces
Feces is 75% water and 25% solids. (6) Of the 25% solids 30% is made up of dead bacteria, 30% is indigestible food (ex. Cellulose), 10-20% cholesterol and other fats, 10-20% inorganic substances such as calcium/iron phosphate, a 2-3% proteins. Dead red blood cells are what give feces its signature brown colour.
Poop http://www.sillyjokes.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/image_6605.jpg “web” 12/01/18
Various chemical compounds are in feces. These range from compounds that make its colour to the ones that cause the odor. The odor causing compounds are Stercobilin C33H46N4O6, Urobilin C33H42N4O6, there are 2 other categories of odor causing compounds; Methyl sulfides and Benzopyrrole volatiles. The methyl sulfides include methyl mercaptan/methanethiol (MM) dimethyl sulfide (DMS) dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS) dimethyl disulfide (DMDS). The Benzopyrrole volatiles include skatole C6H9N, indole C8H7N, ad hydrogen sulfide H2S. Of all these compounds H2S is the most common volatile. The odor of feces may also be stronger if you have any of the following conditions; Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, Chronic pancreatitis, Cystic fibrosis, Intestinal infection, Malabsorption, and Short bowel syndrome. Methods on how to reduce fecal odor are largely based on animal research and testing. Most are dietary changes, these include; Activated charcoal (In this study it was found that activated charcoal at a dose of 0.52g four times a day did not appreciably influence the liberation of fecal gases.), bismuth subsalicylate, chloryphyllyn, herbs such as rosemary, yucca schidigera, and zinc acetate (Zn(O2CCH3)2). (5)
The average human produces approximately 1 oz. of feces for every 12 lbs of body weight. On average that is approximately 4.52 oz. of feces per day, with an average pH of 6.6. Worldwide it is estimated that 34,314,510,184.5518 oz. of feces are produced daily by humans alone.
The average temperature of feces is 37oC. At 43oC E. coli colonies become present in your feces and can turn your feces red.
E. coli https://www.biocote.com/wp-content/uploads/bfi_thumb/Five-Facts-about-E-coli_img-n9tu6xevuv4y66l3rwyn3rzwak6j8up8h7n8um9fws.jpg “web” 14/01/18
Feces is classified into many categories I will address shape/form and colour.
I) Colour – Colour may vary depending on diet and health but generally is a light or dark brown when healthy. As mentioned earlier, red feces can be E. coli, however it may also indicate there is an excessive amount of red blood cells in your feces.
Red feces https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Red_feces.png “web” 14/01/18
This may be due to bleeding in the upper digestive track. Hemorrhoids can also turn feces bright red on the surface as it passes out the anus.
Blue feces is caused by radiation treatment or thallium or cesium poisoning. This can also be caused by consuming large amount of blue food colouring.
Blue feces https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BOFoV6sCMAIv1vh.jpg “web” 14/01/18
Silver/aluminum feces is the result of a biliary obstruction combined with gastrointestinal bleeding.
Silver feces http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/Case_6-pres1-1.jpg “web” 14/01/18
Green feces indicates large amounts of unprocessed bile in your feces, or by consuming large amounts of green food colouring.
Green feces http://www.whycenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/green-poop.jpg “web” 14/01/18
Green feces smells stronger than any other type of feces due to the excessive amounts of bile present.
Yellow feces is caused by an infection called giardiasis. Yellow feces can also be caused by Gilbert’s Syndrome. It can also indicate food has passed too quickly through the digestive track.
Yellow feces http://www.singaporeplumbingworks.com/wp-content/uploads/yellow-greasy-poop510-1.jpg “web” 14/01/18
Pale or grey feces can indicate insufficient bile output. Bile salts from the liver give stool its brownish color. If there is decreased bile output, stool is much lighter in color. (5)
Grey feces http://www.howdoeslooklike.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/This-pictures-is-showing-what-blood-in-stool-look-like-8.jpg “web” 14/01/18
Lastly violet stool is a symptom of porphyria.
II) Shape/Form – Feces is often classified by the Bristol Stool Scale. It was developed by K.W. Heaton at University of Bristol and was first published in 1997. The form of the stool depends on the time it spends in the colon. (5) The scale is as follows
1) Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass) (5)
2) Sausage-shaped but lumpy (5)
3) Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface (5)
4) Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft (5)
5) Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (5)
6) Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool (5)
7) Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid (5)
Bristol Stool scale https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/BristolStoolChart.png “web” 14/01/18
The first two types indicate constipation. (5) Types 3 and 4 are the most ideal, especially 4 and are typically the easiest to pass. Types 5+ indicate diarrhea or urgency. A babies first poop is called meconium.
Feces is waste discarded after digestion. It contains up to 50% of the original energy of the food consumed. Seeds for various plant types can also be found feces. This helps to disperse seeds for the plants having spread them via the feces. Feces can also be an effective fertilizer. When feces is a fertilizer, it is called manure.
Manure https://fthmb.tqn.com/YDX-YJgK0zLlg9pRJPVJ5szp4D8=/2121×1414/filters:no_upscale():fill(transparent,1)/Manure-GettyImages-121831831-59d3cec5845b3400115aaf6a.jpg “web” 14/01/18
It is important to return feces to the area the food consumed was from, to maintain essential nutrients in that area of soil. If feces does not return to where it came from an area of land may run out of essential nutrients in the soil and no longer yield as many crops as previously.
You can perform a fecal pH test. A fecal pH test is when a sample of feces is taken and tested for acidity. Human feces is normally alkaline. (9) Acidic stool indicates lactose intolerance or a contagion like E. coli or rotavirus. A pH of less than 5.5 indicates an acidic sample. (9)
Whale feces could help fight global warming. It is full of nitrogen and iron, two of the most important nutrients for plankton and krill. (1) “By helping the plankton and krill populations grow, whales play a huge and beneficial role in maintaining ocean ecosystems, on commercial fishing and even on climate change.” (1) “We see these when we’re out at sea, these large plumes: fecal plumes. It can be as large as our research boat,” Roman said in the interview. “And in there are tons of nutrients. So the whales dive deep to feed, they release the nutrients at the surface, and this really matters in the summer, when the growth of algae are restricted because there aren’t enough nutrients in the sea. So the whales can actually be increasing productivity in the areas in which they’re feeding.” (1) This helps to combat global warming because when whales swim up to the surface they bring all the iron and nitrogen rich fumes with them. All these nutrients at the surface create copious amounts of phytoplankton.
Phytoplankton https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/phytoplankton.jpg “web” 14/01/18
When they reach the surface, they soak in CO2 and die. When they die, they bring the CO2 back down to the bottom of the ocean, taking it out of the atmosphere very effectively. This is called “whale falls”. (1)
In conclusion, feces is abiotic and consumed by coprophagia. It is also comprised of various chemical compounds and everyone produces a different amount of feces. Feces can come in may different colours and shapes/forms. It can contain up to 50% of the original energy of the food consumed and is an extremely effective fertilizer called manure. It can be tested for a pH value to diagnose certain conditions, and is healthy at a pH value of around 6.6. Also, whale feces can help contribute to filter excess CO2 out of the atmosphere.