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Scientists are now waging a geeky, gory Twitter battle over #BestCarcass

Warning: This article contains tweets that depict graphic scenes from nature.

Have you ever taken a photo of something because it was a bit scary or gross?

Well, you are not alone. And it turns out scientists do have a sense of humour, although it appears to be quite twisted.

This month, biologists and ecologists have flocked to Twitter to share photos of dead animals that they found while in the field. One by one, researchers from around the globe have shared the gruesome pics of animal carcasses using the hashtag #BestCarcass.

You have already been warned once, but you are about to cross the line of no return. Are you sure about this?

Because if you continue you will see dead, dismembered and decaying animals. OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you – that’s three times now.

The gory battle began on January 10, after a group of scientists started sharing pics. Julien Fattebert, an ecologist at the Swiss Ornithological Institute, seems to have kicked it all off with this tweet:

Emanuele Biggi, a naturalist and conservationist, found these frogs trapped in a frozen lake:

Science journalist Phillip Hummel posted this fox, which was perfectly frozen in a block of ice:

And marine conservationist and biologist Dr David Shiffman shared this disturbing shot of a dolphin:

PhD candidate and self-confessed “squirrel wrangler” Danielle Rivet found this unfortunate little fella:

Some took a more light-hearted approach. Californian fish biologist M. Sid Kelly shared this:

#BestCarcass soon spread beyond scientists to people in other professions. Cooking blogger Richard Fitch posted this strong contender:

And law student Anna Caro posted this shot, which looks like it would be perfect for the cover of a heavy metal album:

The New York Times reports that although Fattebert was surprised by the popularity of the hashtag, he was glad that it had taken off. He wrote, “death is inherent to life, and we have to deal with it more often than not. And it’s sometimes disgusting, yes I think this hashtag has opened a window on this side of life science.”

Putting it a little more succinctly, he tweeted:

For people who dismiss these pics as a cruel or macabre gore-fest, keep in mind that scientists learn a lot from studying corpses. For example, The Times article mentions the work of Ted Stankowich, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at California State University. He posted this image of the leftover anal gland of a skunk:

To us, it’s a skanky skunk carcass. But to Stankowich, who is trying to understand how animals adapt to avoid skunks, it’s crucial evidence.

Anne Hilborn, a PhD student at Virginia Tech, shared the following fascinating image of a miscarried zebra:

She sees #BestCarcass as educational and hopes that the contest never ends.

It’s been a busy month for scientists on Twitter. In addition to #BestCarcass, a hastag #Doesitfart has been doing the rounds. It’s helping biologists, who are in the process of building an epic database that reveals which animals break wind.

If you are curious (and if you have read this far, then you must be), you can check out the fart spreadsheet here. In it, you’ll find some real comic gems in the Descriptions/Notes section.

For example, birds don’t fart “but they could if they wanted to”, and African wild dogs fart because “any self-respecting canine does”. Domestic cats fart, and it “seems to worsen in the vicinity of human face… silent but deadly”.

Uh, thanks, science.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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