Answer by Rory Young:
If you are tracking animals then all poops are interesting but some are more interesting than others!
I will use the example of elephant poop. Here are just a few things that can be told looking at elephant boli:
1. The age of the animal.. Elephants never stop growing. There is a direct correlation between bolus diameter or circumference and the age of the elephant. The greater the diameter the older the elephant.
2. The size of the animal. Again diameter or circumference can be used to determine height at the shoulder.
3. Gender. There are several ways to use dung to determine gender from droppings in elephants. One is the composition of the contents. Males and females browse differently. Because females alive in herds and are smaller in stature and males are solitary it means they have different dietary requirements and feeding habits. Another is the shape of the bolus, which tends to be “tidier” in females than males. Also frequency of defecation is greater in females than in males.
4. Diet. Elephants digest as little as 5% of what they eat meaning the droppings contain cclear evidence of what has been eaten.
5. Populations. Counting boli is a tried and tested means of determining populations, especially in areas where it is difficult to observe the elephants directly such as tropical rain forests.
6. When the elephant was there. The rate deterioration of mounds of droppings has been established and also the cooling rate from 38C elephant body temperature down or up to ambient temperature.
7. The condition of the animal. The health and condition can be determined by frequency, content and appearance.
Much more can be estimated or determined and with a remarkable degree of accuracy not only from elephant droppings but from the droppings of all animals.
I am not sharing details just yet of exactly how to determine all of the above as I have just written a magazine article on this subject which goes into all the details, including formulas, accuracy ranges, references scientific papers for further study for the analysis of elephant tracks, droppings and aerial spoor and what can seriously be determined. I’ll post a link as soon as a digital version of the article has been published.
I leave you with this splendid example of elephant poop.