Observation:Scientists studying animals in the forests noted that eagles prefer eating lion shit to wolf shit
Problem:Why do eagles prefer lion shit?
Hypotheses:Lion is the king of the forest, royal shit is a specialty.(2) Lion shit is more tasty compared to wolf shit.(3) Lion shit may be more nutritious than wolf shit.
Probability of correctness:(1) Lion is the king of the forest, royal shit is a specialty.It is we humans who have given the status of King to the lions (in stories). So the eagles may not be knowing that lion is the king of the forest because they have not read these stories. From rigorous observations made in the forests by keen animal watchers, all animals appear to beequal, with their own roles in the food chain.
Probability of correctness:2) Lion shit is more tasty compared to wolf shit.At present, there is no way of deciding how shit tastes to the eagles.Therefore there is no way of testing this hypothesis.
Probability of correctness:(3) Lion shit may be more nutritious than wolf shit.Probable and testable.Therefore it was decided to subject lion shit and wolf shit to rigorous chemical examination in order to gain some understanding about the nature of these two samples by comparing with available knowledge about smell, taste and nutritive value of known compounds that may be present in them.
Survey:Literature survey was conducted with a view to get information aboutGeneral behaviour of lions, wolves and eagles in the forest(2) Nature of the usual food and prey eaten by lions, wolves and eagles(3) Any chemical or physiological investigations of lion and wolf shits that others may already have done.(4) Smell, taste and nutritive value of various chemical substances.Expert zoologists, bird watchers and people living in and around forests were also contacted for any useful information.
Materials and methods:Samples of fresh lion and wolf shits were collected and stored.Analytical methods such as elemental analysis, GPC, TLC, HPLC, GC-MS, IR, NMR etc. were used to find out the nature of compounds present in them.The results were tabulated and analysed.
Results and discussion:Analyses showed that lion shit is richer in proteins compared to wolf shit.
But the nature of food eaten by both lions and wolves are very similar.
Conclusion:Eagles prefer lion shit because it is richer in proteins.
Hypothesis testing:Further investigations showed that eagles become protein deficient at a particular stage in their life cycle when the chicks grow very rapidly, develop wings and start flying.This is compensated by consuming lion shit when available.
Scope for further research:Lions and wolves eat similar food. Then why is lion shit richer in proteins?
Further research:The digestive systems of lions and wolves were investigated.It was found that the digestive system of wolves were more efficient, with better absorption of proteins. Absorption of proteins by the lion's digestive system is not very efficient. Therefore much protein is excreted. Lions make up for this by eating more frequently.
Acknowledgement:This story as an illustration of research methodology was developed as a project by some school children in Singapore who were taught research methodology.
It was narrated to me by:
Dr. A. P. Jayaraman, Ph.D., PGDMMProfessor of Technology Management and ConsultantVice Chairman, National Centre for Science CommunicatorsSingaporeRetired Nuclear Scientist and Engineer, Dept. of Atomic EnergyPast Chairman of Indian Institute of Materials Managementin a Seminar on Science Writing conducted by the Department for Science Communication, CUSAT in February 2008.