Scientists have recently discovered how wombat poo becomes cubed. As the only animal known to defecate in this shape, they really wanted to get to the bottom of this one. Sorry.
Every time I spot wombat poo in the bush, I’m completely guilty of immediately rolling into the completely unverified (but massively popular) explanation about why wombat poo is cubed.
‘They’re marking their territory and cubed poo is less likely to roll away.’
While this has neither been confirmed or denied, (but is still suspected to be the evolutionary cause) scientists have discovered how wombat poo becomes cubed in the first place.
It was once thought that wombat’s had a square anus, which is what turned their poo into cubes, like some kind of play dough squeezer toy. Hm. But apparently, it all comes down to wombat’s intestines, which are quite unique.
A team of Aussie researchers dissected a dead wombat, while a team in the US at Georgia Institute of Technology simulated the creation of a cube using mathematical models. The team found that there are varying thicknesses of the muscle in a wombat’s intestines, creating two flexible and two rigid sections.
According to Dr Scott Carver, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Tasmania, the ‘rhythmical contractions’ that happen inside a wombat’s intestines as waste passes through the altering flexible and rigid sections, causes wombat poo to come out with straight edges and corners. Huh, the more you know!
Although it hasn’t been confirmed, Carver suspects that wombats use their faces to communicate, so being able to have it remain in the same spot, rather than roll away like round faeces can, is an evolutionary advantage. Maybe one day we’ll know for sure.
Feature photo by Gabby Massey