South Africa: Ancient Dassie Dung Holds Secrets On Tackling Climate Crisis

In piles of droppings left by dassies over tens of thousands of years, scientists are catching glimpses of a troubling future.

Dassie poo and the scat of other animals are allowing researchers to crystal-gaze into the future and understand how global heating is possibly going to change our world.

The furry corgi-sized animals that live on rocky outcrops across southern Africa all poop in the same spot and these dung heaps pile up over millennia.

Inside the small pellets of dung are traces of pollen that when identified can help scientists get a handle on what vegetation was around at a particular time in the deep past.

Professor Michael Meadows of the department of environmental and geographical science at the University of Cape Town has worked on dassie or hyrax dung in Namibia that is 70,000 years old.

“We have also used hyena coprolites (fossilised dung), and it is very informative,” says Meadows. “Hyena poo is a bit sticky and pollen sticks to the surface of the poo and then it gets fossilised with the pollen preserved with it.”

Dung is just one of the tools science is using in understanding palaeo climates. Meadows is also getting his hands dirty…


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