Did you know there is a common myth that 3% of the glaciers of Antarctica consist of penguin pee? Yep, it's all over the internet... just Google it. The problem is, penguins are birds, and birds do not pee. That's right, birds do not urinate. They do not have a bladder or urethra. Instead of turning waste into urea, birds turn it into uric acid and secrete it along with their poop, which is a white paste. This is true of all birds.
So, no... Antarctica is not 3% penguin pee!
But wait! Forget the pee. What about penguin poop? Over thousands of years, penguins can produce a huge amount of poop. One scientist anecdotally estimated that penguins on Danco Island (home to between 500 and 1,000 gentoo penguins) produce about 3,000 pounds of poop per year. Over 5,000 years, that would be 15 million pounds of poop.
Is that important? Sure, because all that poop transports nutrients from the ocean to the land. But could penguin poop possibly make up 3% of Antarctica? I should point out that Antarctica covers 14.2 million square km. Wow, that's really huge. And that's only the surface—remember that the ice of Antarctica is really deep. So, 3% of the surface would be a whopping 426,000 square km. Then multiply that by, say... 100 meters deep.
Picture it: a pile of penguin poop 100 meters deep covering an area of 426,000 km. That's how much penguin poop it would take to make up 3% of the ice of Antarctica.
Okay, I admit there's a lot of penguin poop. In fact, it can be seen from space! Biologists can use satellite images to spot the poop to map penguin colonies (see the pinkish-brown poop in the Google Earth image below).
I'll let you decide if this poop could make up 3% of the entire landmass of Antarctica (I'm a bit skeptical).
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