Karen Chin doesn’t have all the answers, but she is willing to make those awkward phone calls that will give her the information she needs. There was the time back in 1998 when she needed to know what size animal could produce a fecal mass of 2.4 liters in one go. So she called a physician who studied bowel movements. “I said, ‘This is going to be a funny question, but I’m a paleontologist, and I’m interested in finding out what is the largest fecal mass that a human can produce. I wonder if I can talk to the doctor about this.’ ” She pauses in her anecdote, remembering the silence on the other end of the phone line. “It was a weird question."