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Word of the Week: Cecotrope
April 01, 2020 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Photo by Richard Bod

Cecotrope [SEE-Kuh-trohp](noun): Partially digested foods that are passed by mammals in the order lagomorpha (e.g.pikas, hares, and rabbits), and then re-ingested.

Unlike most other mammals, rabbits produce two types of droppings, fecal pellets (the round, dry ones) and cecotropes, also known as cecal pellets. Fecal pellets are normally round, dry, and dark to light brown in colour. On the other hand, cecotropes are soft, glossy, squishy, and dark (almost black) in colour. In a way, they ressemble a blackberry.

Cecotropes are produced in the cecum, which is a part of the rabbit's digestive tract. The cecum contains a wild concoction of bacteria and fungi that are incredibly beneficial for the rabbit. In fact, rabbits cannot live without them, since the cecal flora produces essential nutrients that they cannot produce on their own, like fatty acids and vitamins.

With that being said, if the rabbit can’t produce these vitamins themselves, how do they get them? By consuming the cecotropes as they exit the anus!

Pretty gross right? Well, not for a rabbit! If they are deprived of their cecotropes, they might eventually become affected by malnutrition.

The important thing to remember here is that Cecotropes are not feces! They are nutrient-packed dietary items essential to a rabbit's good health.

Keep an eye out for rabbits on your next visit to High Park!

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