Researchers studying the greenhouse effects resultant from retreating glaciers and growing penguin populations have been getting high off of laughing gas. But it’s not what you think. The laughing gas is a natural byproduct of penguin poop decomposing in the local soil. The researchers still say, however, that the laughing gas derived from the penguins’ feces can drive people “cuckoo.”
The researchers, based in Denmark and China, recently published their findings in the journal,
The local glaciers have been retreating over the last 50 years according to the researchers’ study. As the glaciers have retreated, more and more livable land has been made available for local king penguins. The land opened up by the retreating glaciers has been so beneficial, in fact, that it now hosts the world’s biggest king penguin population, including 300,000 breeding birds.
That massive population of penguins leaves behind a lot of feces—technically referred to as guano. Their poop is rich in nitrogen. According to
“After nosing about in guano for several hours, one goes completely cuckoo,” the study’s corresponding author, Bo Elberling at the University of Copenhagen, told
Note: The above video shows penguins pooping. NSFW! Don’t watch while eating!
As for the actual climate effects of the decomposing penguin poop, it seems the atmosphere has seen a large local increase of nitrous oxide. The study notes that the penguins still don’t produce enough nitrous oxide, or any other greenhouse gas, to have a noticeable impact on global climate.