We here at Cracked take pride in our research department's ability to find the most mundane things and figure out how they changed the world, and also to make as many poop jokes in a 2,000-word article as is humanly possible. Delight in the head-on collision between the two as we discuss how poop has managed to change the world in utterly profound ways.
#6. Poop Is the Reason Complex Life Evolved
Millions and millions of years ago, evolution was in a bit of a slump. The Earth, instead of the blue planet bustling with life that it is today, was just some overheated rock with a lot of single-celled bacteria floating around. Evolution remained at a standstill for some three billion years, until getting suddenly jump-started by a process that has always mystified scientists.
Well, according to Australian geoscientist Graham Logan, the miracle that came along to cause the planet to explode with life was shit.
"We've been telling you this for years, sheeple."
Or specifically, the first creatures capable of shitting.
The problem, Logan says, was that at the time the oceans were very low on oxygen (i.e., the stuff pretty much every non-plant on Earth breathes) and very high in carbon. It just wasn't a mix that was conducive to a thriving ecosystem.
"Fuck you, ocean! I'm sick of your shit!"
But then came the shitters. These multicellular creatures could eat plankton and, more importantly, poop out dense turds of carbon that promptly sank to the ocean floor. Over millions of years, they turned the upper sunlit levels of the oceans from a carbon-rich dead zone into an oxygen-rich life factory that gave birth to the entire ecosystem we now know and love.
All thanks to this army of tiny, heroic shit machines.
"And that's why what I'm doing in the swimming pool is perfectly normal, Cheryl."
But poop's work in the ocean would hardly be finished ...
#5. Poop Saves the Ocean's Ecosystem
Here's a difficult question: What makes the ocean work? If you said "poop," then that's great, you're already familiar with the premise of this article. If you said specifically "whale poop," then ... um ... spoiler alert in the header image!
But that is what whale biologist Joe Roman believes. According to his recent study, the very basis of the ocean's ecosystem relies directly on whale shit to function. As it turns out, the anal-bullets of whales have all the necessary nutrients (such as nitrogen and iron) needed to support marine life.
Everything on this diagram would make an awesome name for your prog rock band.
Previously, it was assumed that all the microorganisms took care of that, but Roman's study found that those microorganisms couldn't exist without the titanic dump flotillas whales produce. There simply isn't any other source in the ocean that provides the necessary nutrients in abundance. No other creature takes shits that size.
OK, but how often does he go swimming in the deep ocean?
But that's not all. Another study into whale poop (yes, as it happens there are several) found that it was also crucial to controlling global warming. Scientists discovered that sperm whale shit alone had the ability to draw down 440,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into the ocean, sort of like air scrubbers made of pure excrement. Then that carbon gets feasted on by millions of plankton, and the plankton get eaten by the whales, and the whole process starts all over. Boom, circle of life.
We're pretty sure Elton John wrote a song about it.
In fact, researchers say that if we weren't hunting whales so much (ahem Japan), their shit could remove 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Whale poop is essentially keeping the ocean, and the whole goddamn planet, clean.
#4. Poop Allowed Ancient Humans to Discover the Americas
Contrary to what our calendars seem to tell us, Columbus did not discover America. There's a lot of dispute over who did actually find the continent, with theories ranging from the Vikings to the Chinese, but the most common belief is that tribes migrated into Northern Canada from Russia.
Back then, North America and Asia were connected by a thin strip of land at the Bering Strait in Alaska. The details on the migration have always been slim, since it took place so long ago (waaaay before things like recorded history). For instance, one thing scientists have always debated over is the actual logistics of the migration -- we're talking about a long, frigid trek made entirely on foot. And there's also the question of why.
We can only theorize.
The answer may be, you guessed it, poop.
First, you have to picture what this migration would have looked like. Northern Canada, after all, isn't really known for its lush forests and fertile lands, but rather its magnificent amount of snow and devastating, remorseless cold. Consequently, there really isn't much wood or coal in ready abundance that could have been burned for everyday tasks like cooking food and not freezing to goddamn death. However, something they do have in abundance is yaks, and their accompanying igloo-sized mounds of colonic eruption.
Don't let the colors fool you. He will poop the skin off of your face.
Scientists now believe that the migrating tribes' source of fuel for their fires -- and the very fuel that allowed them to migrate to America -- was yak poop. The idea is that, just as certain tribes of American Indians would follow the buffalo across the country because they depended so heavily on the animals, so would these earlier tribes follow the yak. They'd use the yaks for food and clothing, and burn their shit to prepare their meals and stay warm as they moved across continents.
Which is to say, the humans didn't even want to migrate -- they just went where the poop took them. There were almost no other sources of fuel for the tribes to use, essentially forcing them to survive entirely on flaming yak turds. So, they followed the yak, as it was essentially their one-stop shop for every aspect of daily life. And, as the yak wandered into North America, so did the humans, following a brown trail right into world history.
"Do you mind? I can't go when you're staring at me like that."