Duck Duck Poop - A Tale Of Symbiosis It's time for the regional library Story Slam Potluck & Pajama Party, and the gang's all here! First up, it's Mindy, with a non-fiction story involving a duck, a copycat plant, and some scientifically magical POOP? What could these three things possibly have in common? Join Mindy and Guy Raz for the scoop on Duck Duck Poop, and a tale spinning of symbiosis!
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Duck Duck Poop - A Tale Of Symbiosis

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Duck Duck Poop - A Tale Of Symbiosis

Duck Duck Poop - A Tale Of Symbiosis

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Stay seated. Three, two, one, ignition.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Get ready for an adventure of magnificent proportion.

THE POP UPS: (Singing) I don't know what you've been told, but we're in a golden age - so many discoveries that are jumping off the page. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: With Guy and Mindy.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We're on our way, Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) And then I said, oh, your baby can talk. Well, Big Dipper.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) I can eat a fork. And I did - right there in the middle of that buffet. That was two weeks ago, and I still haven't passed it.

JESSICA RUSSO REVAND: (As librarian) OK. OK. Thank you, Grandma G-Force. That was a story. And everyone else, thank you for joining us for our first annual Regional Library Story Slam Potluck and Pajama Party, sponsored in part by the Knuckle Hut.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Oh, the Knuckle Hut? Off Highway 72? Why, I hear kids under 3 get in free.


Mindy, is that Thomas Fingerling from the Knuckle Hut?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Oh, wow. Coupons on the website -

RUSSO: (As librarian) Our next storyteller of the evening is a person who owes an outstanding amount of debt to libraries across the region and who has proven that even an indoor voice can become an outdoor voice if you really believe in yourself. Please give a long, overdue...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) I get it.

RUSSO: (As librarian) ...Round of applause for...


Woo, yay.

RUSSO: (As librarian) ...Mindy.


THOMAS: Hi. Well, thank you for that introduction and for really just allowing me back into the library after that incident where I cooked one of your cookbooks. I know that my future here was kind of dicey for a little while after that. And it's just really, really good to be back. No, no, please, please. Hold your knuckle-cracking and applause. It's not that big of a deal. I'm just...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) That's my granddaughter.

THOMAS: That's my Grandma G-Force. Hi, Grandma G-Force.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Did somebody call my name?

RAZ: That's my best friend. Thumbs up, Mindy. You got this.

THOMAS: Guy Raz. OK. Well, today I would like to share with you a nonfiction story about a duck.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Yeah, nonfiction. What? Factual assertions are sweet.

THOMAS: And it goes a little something like this. Sorry. It's taking me a second to unscroll this story. OK. Here we go. Once upon a time, there was a duck.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) What was the duck's name?

THOMAS: I don't know if it had a name. It was just a duck.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) I once wrestled a duck named Waddles.

RAZ: What?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) It was a real firequacker (ph), I tell you what.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Shut your mouth, G-Force. I want to hear about the duck.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Well, duck and cover, Fingerling.

THOMAS: OK. Can we just get back to the story, please?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Oh, I love stories. What's it about?

THOMAS: So every morning, this duck would visit his favorite pond in search of his favorite food, duckweed And this particular duckweed had a name. And its name was Wolffia columbiana, known for being one of the teeniest, tiniest flowering plants ever found in nature.

RAZ: Oh, yes, duckweed. You know, guys, there is some buzz in the health food community that duckweed, when grown in clean water, could be the next superfood, which means that other superfoods like kale and quinoa could be getting some healthy competition. In fact, some places in Southeast Asia - they're already on it. This is so exciting.

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: Oh, sorry, sorry.

THOMAS: And once this duck ate all the duckweed he could fit into his little ducky belly, he would fly off to another pond containing no duckweed. And there he would drop off a magical gift.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) What in the World Wide Web are you talking about? Magical gift? Like a Christmas present from Santa?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Did that duck wrap the present first?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Good question. We want details. Now, what kind of wrapping paper was it?

THOMAS: Well, actually, in a way, this duck did wrap this magical gift. He wrapped it in his own poop.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) We're listening.

THOMAS: You see, this duck would waddle all around, pooping it up like nobody's beeswax. And then with almost every poop, a new duckweed plant would appear and then multiply. And before he knew it, the entire pond was covered in a thick, emerald-green carpet of duckweed.

RAZ: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute here, Mindy. If there's one thing I know about duckweed, it's that it has the ability to copy itself or multiply. And even if the duck in your story ate the duckweed plant earlier, it's not like its poop would have anything to do with why it would suddenly appear in this new pond.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) She said it was a magical mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Oh, I believe I've got it. Just like a chicken can lay an egg, the duck laid poop eggs filled with self-multiplying plants called duckweeds.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Good thinking, miss missy. See. Ducks ain't the only ones what poop eggs.

THOMAS: (Clearing throat) Who is supposed to be telling the story here?

RAZ: Oh, sorry, sorry.

THOMAS: Thank you. So the question you should be asking is how? How did this mysterious layer of duckweed suddenly appear in the very place where there was none? And was it just a mere coincidence that the duckweed began to multiply from the exact spots where the duck was doing its bathroom business? Was there something magical about this poop? Or was it just a curious case of cold, hard science?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Cold science.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Yeah. I suppose magic poop ain't exactly nonfictional.

RAZ: Oh, oh, I know. I know. I know. Pick me. Pick me.

THOMAS: Yes, Guy Raz?

RAZ: Thank you for calling on me, Mindy. Now, if you'll all allow me to interject here...

THOMAS: Yeah, well, actually, I didn't...

RAZ: ...You see, scientists have known for quite a long time that some birds carry certain seeds from place to place. And they do this through their digestive systems. And so when they reach their destination, they, you know, poop out viable seeds.

THOMAS: And viable meaning that even after the seeds pass through the bird's digestive system, they still have the ability to germinate or to begin to grow.

RAZ: Yes. And many seeds, including seeds of tomatoes, have incredibly strong, protective layers - layers that protect the seed from anything that might threaten that teeny, tiny growing plant baby inside of it.

THOMAS: That is true, Guy Raz.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) I was born a plant baby.

THOMAS: OK. Well, thank you for that interjection. Now, you see, everyone, the protective layers of certain seeds are so strong that when swallowed by a bird or a duck, not even the stomach acids can break through the shell.

RAZ: Amazing.

THOMAS: Now, would anyone mind if I got back to my story now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Quick question. Are ducks technically birds or fish?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) You ever heard of a chicken of the sea?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Who you calling a chicken?

THOMAS: Everyone, I am trying to tell you a story here.

RAZ: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Sorry, Mindy.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Sorry, sir.

THOMAS: Thank you. Now where was I?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) You're at the library.

THOMAS: Oh, right. Yes. So to solve this mystery of the scientific magic poop, a group of scientists from southern Brazil entered the scene. One of them, a graduate student named Giliandro Silva from Unisinos University in Brazil was dressed head to toe in curiosity.

RAZ: And I suppose he wanted to find out whether or not the duckweed was catching a ride in the feces - or the poop - of the duck as it traveled from one pond to the other.

THOMAS: Well, not only that, Guy Raz. But he also wanted to find out how a duck like this was able to spread seeds or pieces of duckweed plant from pond to pond.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) So what did he do?

THOMAS: Well, he did what any good scientist would do. And he set out on a mission to collect as much duck poop as he could possibly find.

RAZ: Anything for science.

THOMAS: And then he took the duck poop back to his lab and stuck it into the freezer next to his mini bagel pizzas.

RAZ: Anything for science.

THOMAS: And that's when this story takes a turn for the wow. Just as this scientist was digging into the duck poop, he noticed something very unusual. At first, he couldn't believe his eyes. So he pulled out his trusty magnifying glass and inched closer and closer and closer to the duck poop. And you'll never guess what he found.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) A million dollars.

THOMAS: Duckweed - whole bulbs of it. And get this - they were all still completely intact. It looked almost exactly like all of the other duckweed that had not been popped out of a duck.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Gadzooks.

RAZ: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute here, Mindy. You mean to tell us that inside this duck poop that he collected, froze, saved and dissected - that he found teeny, tiny duckweed plants, and they were all still perfectly intact?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, even after being swallowed, digested and pooped out of the duck, the plants were not only still intact, but they were also alive.


RAZ: Wait a minute. I know I'm saying that a lot. But, Mindy, are you sure this wasn't just a one-time fluke of nature? I mean, like we said, certain seeds can pass through a bird's digestive system intact because they have that strong protective casing. But you're talking about the plant itself. I can't see how it could possibly pass through all those stomach acids and survive.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) I got eaten by a duck once, and I ate it back.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, you're right to be skeptical of this discovery. In fact, even these researchers were shocked and surprised by what they found. So to make sure that it wasn't just a one-time fluke of nature, they went back out into the field, collected even more duck poop - this time from three different ducks - took it all back to the lab and then picked the teeny, tiny bulbs of duck weed out of the poop one by one and placed them in small, glass petri dishes.

RAZ: And petri dishes are these small, shallow, round dishes that biologists use to do things like multiply bacteria.

THOMAS: Yes, that is a petri dish.

RAZ: In fact, the petri dish is actually named after the famous German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri, who passed away in the year 1921.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Old Julius Petri. He was my roommate back in college.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) How old are you?

THOMAS: Thank you for that sidebar, Guy Raz.

RAZ: You're welcome.

THOMAS: As I was saying, in an effort to see whether or not these duckweed plants found in the different duck poops were still alive, these scientists put them into different petri dishes and waited and waited. And...

RAZ: And what did they discover?

THOMAS: Wait for it.

RAZ: I'm waiting.

THOMAS: Wait for it.

RAZ: (Groaning) Mindy...

THOMAS: Wait for it.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Sounds like somebody brought a duck to story hour.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, everyone, not only did these scientists discover that many of the duckweed plants were still alive but that they were multiplying.


THOMAS: Before they knew it, seven duckweed bulbs were suddenly filling up a petri dish that previously only had one.

RAZ: So that means not even the stomach acids or the digestion process were able to stop this amazing plant from thriving.

THOMAS: In the words of Jeff Goldblum playing the role of Dr. Ian Malcolm in the 1993 sci-fi adventure hit "Jurassic Park," life, uh, finds a way.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) And then what?

THOMAS: I'm sorry. What?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) You said the duckweed survived the digestion process? How did it do that?

THOMAS: Oh, right, yes. So actually, the answer to that question is best left for the future of scientific exploration.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Oh, no, not a cliffhanger.

THOMAS: Well, see. These scientists still don't know. I mean, they do have a few theories. Like, maybe it has something to do with the round, globe-like shape of this particular duck weed mixed with the fact that it's really, really small.

RAZ: Which, I presume, would help with the speed of digestion, giving it less time for those killer stomach acids to soak in.

THOMAS: Exact-oritos. But for now we still don't know for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) Well, I'm going to go find out myself.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Hold up, Fingerling. Not without me you're not. I'm going, too.

RAZ: Did they just...

THOMAS: So in conclusion, this duck continued to spread the riches of duckweed to ponds and wetlands all over the world, one scientifically magical poop at a time. The end.


RUSSO: (As librarian) Mindy, everyone. Thank you for that inspiring story of pooping propagation. Next up in our Night at the Library Story Slam Potluck and Pajama Party, we're going to change into our pajamas and then continue with more stories before moving on to the potluck portion of the evening. No. Please, ma'am, changing is in the bathroom. Oh, no.

RAZ: That was a really fascinating story, Mindy.

THOMAS: Well, thanks, Guy Razzy (ph).

RAZ: You know, the relationship between the duck and the duckweed was a great example of symbiosis - or the close relationship between two different organisms or living things.

THOMAS: Symbiosis. Huh. Oh, yes. Like a symbiotic relationship.

RAZ: Exactly. I was just reading about this. And I learned that there are three different kinds of symbiotic relationships.

THOMAS: Yeah? And what are they?

RAZ: The first is called mutualism. And that's the type of symbiotic relationship where both organisms benefit or get something good out of the relationship.

THOMAS: Yeah, like in our friendship. Remember that time I removed two of your wisdom teeth for you while you were sleeping, and then you gave them to me to make myself a pair of earrings?

RAZ: Mindy, I do not remember giving you my wisdom teeth to make earrings.

THOMAS: Well, do you remember complimenting me on them?


RAZ: Wow, those are some interesting earrings, Mindy. They look like real teeth.

THOMAS: That's because they are real teeth, Guy Raz.


RAZ: Really?

THOMAS: You know, maybe a better example of mutualism would be the symbiotic relationship between plants and pollinators.

RAZ: Yeah.

THOMAS: So a lot of flowering plants provide food like nectar or pollen for birds and bees and other pollinators, right?

RAZ: That's right. Very generous of those flowers.

THOMAS: But they get something out of it, too. In return, the pollinators carry the pollen of the plant to other plants and fertilize them to help them reproduce.

RAZ: The birds and the bees get to eat, and the plants get to survive and multiply.

THOMAS: Exact-oritos. And my duck story from earlier is also a really good example of mutualism.

RAZ: Huh. That's right. The duckweed provided itself as food for the duck.

THOMAS: Yes. And in return, the duck would allow the duckweed to hitch a ride in its poop.

RAZ: And then the duck would drop it off in a place that maybe needed duckweed.

THOMAS: And the duckweed would multiply and spread for more ducks to eat - a symbiotic relationship built in mutualism.

RAZ: Whoa. Pretty wow. OK. So the next type of symbiotic relationship is commensalism.

THOMAS: Commensalism. Oh, wait. This is where only one species is held, while the other is like, no big deal either way.

RAZ: Yes. In commensalism, only one species benefits, while the other is neither helped nor harmed.

THOMAS: Like when I eat scraps from your compost bin. I get to enjoy all of your leftover pizza crust, and you don't even notice they're missing since you were just going to compost it all anyway. You ate the pizza crust out of my compost bin. Let's not focus on where it came from, OK?

RAZ: I'm just - do you know where...

THOMAS: OK. Time for the third and final type of symbiotic relationship.

RAZ: That would be parasitism.

THOMAS: Parasitism. I think I know where you're going with this one.

RAZ: Parasitism is the type of symbiotic relationship where one organism or parasite benefits, while the other organism suffers.

THOMAS: So parasitism is like when fleas or ticks stick themselves to dogs or cats and then live on their blood?

RAZ: Yes.

THOMAS: Or that one time that you had that fungus attack the plants in your garden, thriving on the life it sucked out of them?

RAZ: Yes. Or every time you take the wheels off my car for a new invention or that time you shaved off my eyebrows while I was sleeping and gave them to Reggie for his birthday.

THOMAS: OK. Technically, Reggie benefited from your eyebrows more than I did. And it was only one eyebrow because you woke up halfway through.

RAZ: Or that time I refrosted your entire gingerbread house, and then I found you on the roof eating all of the hard work that I had just put in. Parasitism - symbiotic parasitism.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) Oh, Fingerling, you could've just ridden on my handlebars.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) And risk injuring these prize-winning knuckles? (Cracking knuckles). No way, mister.

THOMAS: Looks like our favorite new symbiotic relationship is back. Hey, Grandma G-Force. Did you and Thomas Fingerling find out how the duckweed was able to survive the duck's digestive system?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-force) Nah. Fingerling over here couldn't find the car.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Thomas Fingerling) I told you I don't own a car. I use ride-sharing mobile labs. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look for a book on how to use ride-sharing mobile apps in the card catalog.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Grandma G-Force) I'll look you up in the card catalog.

THOMAS: Well, looks like you might have to wait a little longer before we're able to solve this particular scientific mystery.

RAZ: I kind of like that the more we know, the more scientific mysteries reveal themselves.

THOMAS: Oh, speaking of scientific mysteries, looks like Reggie is about to take the podium.

RAZ: Reggie?

RUSSO: (As librarian) Our next storyteller of the evening just flew into town. And boy, are his arms tired.


RUSSO: (As librarian) I'm sorry. That should be wings.


RUSSO: (As librarian) Please give a warm round of applause for our resident library pigeon, Reggie.



UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: WOW IN THE WORLD will be right back. Grown-ups, this message is for you.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: That's it. Back to the show.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world.


THOMAS: Hi. Thanks for calling WOW IN THE WORLD. After the beep, get ready to record.


AMELIA: My name is Amelia (ph). I live in Monee, Ill. My wow in the world is that owls have one toe that can go either forward or backward. I love your show, Mindy and Guy Raz.


GAVIN: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Gavin (ph). And I'm from Cheverly, Md. And my wow in the world is that acorns are poisonous to horses. Bye, Mindy and Guy Raz.


HAZEL: Hi. My name is Hazel (ph). I'm from Calgary in Inglewood. And my wow in the world is that the brain sends signals to the body to tell it what to do. Bye.


LILY: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Lily (ph). And my wow in the world is that marshmallows were originally made by a plant.


GABRIEL: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Gabriel (ph), and I live in Canada. My wow in the world is if you combined all the germs on the planet, it would be heavier than all the humans on Earth.


LYLA AND OSCAR: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz.

LYLA: My name is Lyla (ph).

OSCAR: And my name is Oscar (ph).

LYLA AND OSCAR: And we live in in Portland, Ore.

OSCAR: And our wow in the world is...

LYLA: ...Alligators can live up to three years without food. Say hi to Reggie for us.


OSCAR: And Dennis.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As Dennis) Ahoy there.

LYLA AND OSCAR: We love your podcast.

LYLA: Bye.


ZAID: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Zaid (ph), and I am from Waterloo, Ontario, in Canada. My wow in the world is that over 40 years ago, NASA launched the Voyager 1 probe that has now traveled so far it's left our solar system. Thanks, and I love your show. Bye.


BRENNAN: Hi. My name is Brennan (ph).

DIDI: Hi. My name is Didi (ph).

BRENNAN: We live in Milwaukie, Ore. And our wow in the world is...

DIDI: Koalas have two thumbs.

BRENNAN: And they eat eucalyptus trees, which are poisonous to most animals but not koalas.

BRENNAN AND DIDI: Bye. Love your show.


JACK: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Jack (ph), and I live in Wilmington, Minn. And my wow in the world is that we are made out of the same things as stars. We are made out of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and iron. Say hi to Reggie.


JACK: I don't like your show. I love your show.



UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: End of messages.

THOMAS: Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for hanging out with us this week on WOW IN THE WORLD.

RAZ: And to keep the wow rolling, check out this week's scientific conversation starters at our website

THOMAS: And, grown-ups, there you can find more info on how your kids can become members of the World Organization of Wowzers, shop our Wow Shop, upload photos and videos to us and check dates for our upcoming live events. That's

RAZ: Our show is produced by Jed Anderson.

THOMAS: Who provides the bells, whistles and silly characters. Say hello, Jed.


THOMAS: Our show is written by me, Guy Raz and Thomas van Kalken, who also provides silly characters. Tom?


THOMAS: And shoutout to Dr. Jessica Russo Revand for playing the librarian in this episode.

RAZ: Thanks also to Jessica Boddy, Casey Koeffer (ph), Rebecca Caban (ph), Kit Ballenger (ph) and Alex Curley. Meredith Halpern-Ranzer powers the wow at Tinkercast.

THOMAS: Our theme song was composed and performed by The Pop Ups. For more info on their two-time-Grammy-nominated, all-ages music, find them at

RAZ: Grown-ups, you can follow WOW IN THE WORLD on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @wowintheworld. And our email address is

THOMAS: And if you're a kid with a big wow to share with us, call us at 1-888-7-WOW-WOW for a chance to be featured at the end of the show.

RAZ: Also, if you haven't already done so, please subscribe to WOW IN THE WORLD on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

THOMAS: Yeah. Leave us a few stars, a review. Or just tell a friend about the show.

RAZ: Thanks again for listening. And until next time...

RAZ AND THOMAS: Keep on wowing.



THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: WOW IN THE WORLD was made by Tinkercast and sent to you by NPR.

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