It’s one of the most pressing questions facing humanity: What color is Antarctic penguin poo? An intrepid group of researchers from England’s University of Cambridge has donned their thermal undies and sacrificed three months of their lives in order to answer this question for us.
Peter Fretwell and three other researchers recently flew to Signy Island, Antarctica. This peaceful little place is four miles long, three miles wide and has a population of five. It’s also home to 74,300 penguins. The temperature on Signy Island can hit -47°F — but that’s fairly mild for the Antarctic, so don’t let that deter you from booking your next vacation there.
Fretwell and his friends spent three months—including Christmas and New Years—on Signy, stalking the island’s 74,300 penguins and waiting for them to poop (as you can imagine, they didn’t have to wait long). Once pooping commenced, Fretwell’s team tiptoed behind the penguins, taking photos and collecting the prettiest samples. They then analyzed the poop—using stunningly expensive equipment—to determine its exact color.
Their conclusion? Penguin poop is white—except when it’s pink. Turns out penguins sometimes gorge on krill—tiny crustaceans that turn everything they touch an impressive shade of pink (krill, it seems, are the beets of the Antarctic).
So, what can we learn from Peter Fretwell and his colleagues? First of all, if you’re antisocial, love penguins, and aren’t afraid of hypothermia, Signy Island is a great place to spend Christmas. Secondly, don’t ever drink while sitting in a planning meeting with Fretwell—I’ve heard rumors his next project could be collecting killer whale poop.