Tuesday, February 24, 2009

University Expels Lizard Dung

Daniel Bennett, a student at the Leeds University in England, collected 35 kilograms of butaan lizard feces as part of his PhD research. It took him over seven years to collect all of the samples in the rainforests of the Philippines.

To Bennett, the lizard droppings represented “seven years of painstaking work searching the rainforest with a team of reformed poachers to find the feces of one of the world's largest, rarest and most mysterious lizards.” The butaan lizard is closely related to the rare komodo dragon.

"Whether it was the largest collection of lizard shit in the world is uncertain," he said. "But it certainly contained the only dietary sample from that little-known species Varanus olivaceus, and probably the most complete dietary record of any single population of animals in South East Asia."

After returning from one of his trips to the Philippines to gather more feces, Bennett was devastated to find that the University had cleaned up the laboratory and threw away his bag of samples.

The University printed the story under the headline “Oh Crap, There Goes My Work.”

In a statement the university said: "The loss of these samples was an unfortunate mistake. They were thrown away in error because they were in an unmarked bag.

Lessons have been learned and protocols improved to ensure this cannot happen again. Mr Bennett is due to graduate with his PhD this year, subject to minor corrections to his thesis unrelated to the loss of the materials." In other words, he'll graduate without his old shit, but has his new shit.

“To some people it was just another bag of lizard shit,” Bennett told reporters. To him, however, it represented years of hard work running around in the Philippines with a butaan lizard pooper scooper.

I can fully relate to Mr. Bennett’s predicament. In my neighborhood, we have all sorts of berry bushes growing in the wild. I can usually tell which ones the birds ate by the color of all the splatters on my car. If I go down to Pat's Steaks in South Philly, the droppings take on an orange color (cheese whiz) and come down on my windshield "wit" (onions).

If I had set my mind to scraping some of it off my windshield, to examine under a microscope, and became an avid collector of urban bird droppings, I would be ticked off if someone thought my stash was “just another bag of bird shit” and threw it out.

No comments: