That Gunk on Your Car

IMG_0514Back in 1997, entomologist Mark Hostetler published the book That Gunk on Your Car, a serious and funny identification guide to the flattened bodies you might find on your front bumper in the southeastern U.S.

I think there needs to be a companion book to Mark’s—The Ecology of That Gunk on Your Car.


This morning, I sat and watched sparrows descend upon cars in a carpark, picking off splatted insects. How these birds discovered that cars are a great source of protein, I don’t know, but they were certainly enthusiastic. They flitted into crevices to pick out tasty bits—a gooey abdomen here, a crunchy thorax there.

It made me wonder how important car-splat insects were in their diet. Birds inhabiting an urban environment are likely to have difficulty finding insects to eat—the bodies carried in by cars could be incredibly important to them. What other species make use of car-splats? How much nutrient flow is there between rural and urban areas, just on the front ends of cars? Do these nutrients affect the populations of urban pests like sparrows? How does a good mass-transit system affect the flow of nutrients into the urban environment?

So many questions, so few answers! How little we really know about the world around us!