Consider the diet of animals in a size-adjusted fashion: if we scale a meal by the weight of the creature eating it, we can intuitively understand how much a cat / bird / bug / whatever is eating in relative terms.


Animals have varying caloric requirements: usually, larger/warmer ones need to eat more.

The Issue:

When a small animal eats a small portion of food, it’s hard to intuitively understand how much food that is at a human scale.

For example, if a sparrow eats a single sesame seed, is that equivalent to a human eating a bag of potato chips? Or an entire roast duck? Or what? Who knows!

But even though a single seed has negligible nutritional value to a human, it could be a perfectly adequate snack for a tiny (or “smol,” in the scientific parlance) bird!


Any time the subject of food for animals is brought up, the meal should be also adjusted to make it understandable in human terms.

(This is similar to the idea of “adjusting for inflation” for money: a film that brought in ten million dollars could be a success or a failure depending on the year.)

An Example:

There’s a bird called the “grasshopper sparrow,” which weighs ~0.6 oz (17 grams). Apparently, it’s a sparrow the likes to eat grasshoppers (which can weigh ~0.5 grams). So we have:

  • Bird / grasshopper  = 17 g / 0.5 g. Thus, the sparrow is 34x as heavy as the grasshopper that it’s chomping on.

For a human equivalent, let’s use a 150 lb. (68,000 gram) human and an 8 oz (226 gram) hamburger (including the bun, lettuce, tomato, etc…). The burger weighs as much as 500 grasshoppers!

  • Hamburger / human ratio: 68000g / 226g ≈ 300. So the human weighs as much as 300 hamburgers.

So, assuming the hamburger and the grasshopper are nutritionally identical weight-for-weight, we find that the bird eating a single grasshopper is conceptually identical to a human eating nine hamburgers (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: A tiny bird eating a tiny bug could be nutritionally equivalent to a human chowing down on an enormous platter of hamburgers.


This could work the other way, too. Maybe a shark eating a, say, entire seal is the equivalent of a person eating a single raisin. It’s hard to say without doing the math first!

PROS: Supplies a new way of understanding the natural world in a more intuitive way.

CONS: People might get really judgmental, like “Hey you, hummingbird! Are you really going to drink ALL that nectar? You know that’s the equivalent of me drinking TWENTY cans of soda, right?”