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Fresh Sheet – October 19, 2019

This week’s list of new arrivals to our Tropical Butterfly House includes an explanation of one of the butterflies’ favorite activities: puddling.

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Fresh Sheet – October 12, 2019

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The Art of Poop

by | Sep 12, 2019

Here at Pacific Science Center we constantly encourage everyone to be curious. Explore your world. Look for things large and small and try to figure out how things work. A member of our Animal Care staff has done just that and in the end, produced some amazing art.

In our last report (linked below), we discussed scatology, the science of feces, otherwise known as poop, and how scientists use it to learn about prehistoric humans and answer questions about wildlife, among other things. And we introduced you to Gabriella Boyer, one of our Animal Caretakers who got her degree in fish & wildlife science. She shared her love of scatology and how she uses it and how anyone can practice the science. But in talking with her I learned something else she has done regarding the study of poop: she’s made some very cool looking art made from butterfly poop!

“Butterfly poop is called meconium,” she said. “So I’ve been calling my art meconium sprinkle art because meconium splatter art doesn’t sound as appealing.”

So, how does she get art from poop? First of all, butterfly meconium is nothing like what your dog or cat deposit in your yard. This meconium resembles the first waste a human baby deposits in their diaper not long after they’re born, though butterfly meconium isn’t nearly as gross looking as a baby’s. Second, she doesn’t actually touch the stuff. The butterflies do all the work.

The emerging window inside Pacific Science Center's Tropical Butterfly House

The emerging window inside Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House. Meconium collects at the bottom.

In our Tropical Butterfly House we have a large window we call the emerging window. That’s where the chrysalises hang in neat little rows and you can watch the butterflies emerge. When they do, they discharge the waste that’s built up in their bodies while they were going through their amazing metamorphosis from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly in very cramped quarters. Depending on the species, this stuff comes in blues and pinks and reds…all sorts of colors that build up at the bottom of the window. Gabriella saw this and wondered what it would look like if she placed watercolor paper beneath them. What she came up with looks amazing. Put a frame around it, put it on a wall, and that is some nice art.

We did a little research and found a man in Florida who does something similar with monarch butterflies. It’s different than Gabriella’s but none the less beautiful.

While this all may seem strange, give a listen to the podcast embedded below and learn more about it. The next time you’re in for a visit, ask one of our staff members or volunteers to show you the art or just look in the emerging window, though we clean that daily so it won’t be as colorful.

Bottomline: it’s all fascinating and a great example of curiosity that led at least two people, a continent apart, to see something beautiful in what would otherwise be considered ugly. Ya gotta love that.

Resources:

Our previous story about scatology

Florida artist Franky Cruz: Vivarium Meconium

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