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February 17 2013

Climate change can be tracked through 'urine layers'


A small furry creature with dependable toilet habits is proving useful in attempts to chart the Earth's past climate change.

The Rock Hyrax is about the size of a guinea pig and lives in crevices in rock faces in Africa and Asia. Communities tend to stay in one place for a long time, and each generation teaches the next where to pee.

The result is layer upon layer of dried urine, which contains pollen, bits of leaves, grasses and bubbles of air that can give a picture of the Earth's climate at a certain point in history. In one location in South Africa, a urine layer was found that stretches back 55,000 years.

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