Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Everybody Poops!

Everybody poops! When our hyenas poop, we collect it and analyze it for data. At the very least, we can analyze the poop for hormones. When the poop is hard enough, DNA can be collected from the poop. This is especially helpful if the animal has never been darted and blood work for DNA (among other things) done. Collecting poop also helps assess the level of parasites present in our study population, and when paired with behavioral data collected when the animal poops, it can be used to see how behavior influences hormones within an animals body. If poop from one individual is collected regularly throughout the animals life, it can be determined when subadults reach reproductive maturity, as well as where females are in their reproductive cycles on any day mating behaviors are displayed.

When we process poop for DNA, we scrape the outside surfaces of all the turds. The scrapings are then put into tubes filled with RNA-later, which helps to protect cellular RNA. For hormones, the poop (within a ziplock baggie) is smashed together (so the sample represents the entire poop), and scooped with what we call a poop stick ( really a tongue depressor) and put into sample tubes. Then all sample tubes are flash frozen with liquid nitrogen, and saved until they can be brought back to the United States and processed in the lab at Michigan State.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science