chicken poop

This week a pile of chicken poop like that shown above set me onto a train of thought worth sharing. Actually, it was less the poop itself than the white paste covering the excrement's right side that was interesting. The paste is composed mostly of uric acid, and in that there's a story.

For, every second of the day and night, animals are producing the waste product known as ammonia. Ammonia results from the normal breakdown of amino acids (which make up protein) and nucleic acids (of which our genetic material is composed), so, because our bodies constantly renew their cells and tissues, there's a good bit of it. Ammonia in sufficient amounts is toxic, so if it isn't cleansed from the body the animal becomes ill or dies.

In mammals such as us humans, our waste ammonia, NH3, is combined with carbon dioxide, CO2 to form urea, CO(NH3)2. Urea dissolves in water that in mammals is flushed from the body as urine. In other words, when we go pee, we're getting rid of our body's poisonous waste ammonia in the form of urea.

Maybe you've noticed that reptiles and birds don't drink and pee nearly as much as us mammals. That's because reptiles and birds get rid of their bodies' ammonia a different way, a way requiring much less water. Reptiles and birds, instead of converting their ammonia to urea, mostly convert their ammonia to uric acid, C5H4N3O3, which is excreted as a white paste or even a dry, white, powdery covering of the animal's poop. The white substance on the chicken poop in the above picture is uric acid that didn't need a lot of water to be flushed from the bird's body.

Just think of all the time and effort we'd save if we didn't have to drink and pee so much -- if our bodies converted ammonia to uric acid instead of urea.

Once we begin wondering why we're designed the way we are, certain other questions about inconveniences our bodies impose on us come to mind. Why are we designed so that our teeth decay so easily? Why do we so often suffer back pain? Why is childbearing so dangerous to women, whose pelvises hardly are big enough for the passage of a baby's big head?

One reason is because human mentality and behavior have evolved faster than human bodies. Nature hasn't had the time to fine-tune our bodies to deal with today's sugary food, our lack of exercise, walking upright, etc.

Reflecting on these thoughts stirred up by a pile of chicken poop, it becomes easier to see humanity as just one species among millions evolving on Earth, each species with its own special set of adaptations and weaknesses, and each species "a work in progress." And that insight opens the door to our more clearly seeing this:

That, if we continue destroying the Earth's capacity to support us, we have no grounds for believing that we with our rotting teeth, slipped discs, mothers having birthing problems, and eternal visits to the bathroom, are so special and important that Divine intervention will save us.

Every pile of chicken poop is telling us that we ourselves are responsible for our continued survival on Earth.