June 23, 2011


I have been comfortable with poo ever since I realised that playing with it was a big part of a zoologist's life.

Giant panda poo
You can tell a lot from animal poo. Scientists use poo to work out where an animal has been, what time it was there, what it recently ate, if it is ready to mate, has mated, or is pregnant, if it is stressed, if it's a male or female, how old it is, and how related it is to the animal next door.

For some animals you see their poo more than you see them. I once met a PhD student in China studying giant pandas who had only seen one giant panda in three years of looking, and even then he had had to use a secret video camera at night, and only ended up with a picture of its leg.

Luckily giant pandas produce a lot of poo and are known to excrete up to 120 green balls of shredded bamboo every day. To describe the shape, size, colour and moisture content of the enormous amount of poo produced by giant pandas, and all the other species that make poo, classification systems are needed. We are no different.

Classifying our poo

The Bristol Stool Chart is the medical equivalent of zoological guides for identifying non-human animal poo.

The different Types look different because they have spent differing amounts of time in the colon. The colon's main job is to absorb water and some minerals from poo, so the wetter and less formed the poo the less time it has spent in the colon.

During chemoradiotherapy I sometimes went from Type 2 to 5 to 1, in a single day.

Now this chart is of particular relevance to me because very soon I am going to have my colon drastically shortened, and even more interestingly, I am going to have a procedure done that means what is left of my colon will be temporarily bypassed, completely.

Remember what I said about runnier poo spending less time in the colon? Imagine what poo that has spent no time in the colon looks like.

Got the image? My work here is done.

Tricks like this can only be performed by poo after travelling through the colon

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for speaking out for the pro-poo movement. My very first painting featured poo. Prominently. (But no, I used paints, NOT mixed media.) --Michelle T