Wombat poop: Scientists have finally discovered why it's cubed

A team of scientists claims to have unraveled one of the animal kingdom's more peculiar mysteries: why womba...

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 10:30 AM

A team of scientists claims to have unraveled one of the animal kingdom's more peculiar mysteries: why wombat poop is cube-shaped.

The wombat, native to Australia, produces about 80 to 100 cubes of poop each night. It is known to deposit piles of dung outside burrows and on top of rocks and logs, most likely to communicate with other wombats, researchers believe.

Science

"Wombats have really strong sense of smell that they use probably for communication," said University of Tasmania wildlife ecologist Scott Carver, who co-authored the study. "We don't know what that information they're sharing is, but it might be something about mating, it might be something about general advertising about who's in the area."

It is thought that the cubed shape of the poop means it is less likely that it will roll away, and is prominent for other individuals to notice and smell, Carver added.

But how the wombat produces the cubed shapes is a phenomenon that has puzzled many observers of the furry marsupial.

Researchers, led by the Georgia Institute of Technology's Patricia Yang, said they have uncovered the digestive processes behind the mystery and presented their findings at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in Atlanta on Sunday.

The wombat's cubed faeces is a trait that's unique in the animal world, the researchers said, as cubes are usually created by cutting or molding.

"In the built world, cubic structures are created by extrusion or injection molding, but there are few examples of this feat in nature," authors of the project said in the study's abstract.

To solve the puzzle, the team examined the digestive tracts of wombats that had to be euthanized following vehicle collisions in Tasmania, Australia.

The wombat takes about two weeks to digest its food and researchers found that as faeces move into the final 8% of the intestine, it changes from a liquid-like state into solid matter. At that stage the dung takes on the shape of separated cubes measuring about two centimeters in length.

"The weird thing is that if you open up a wombat you actually find that the cubes become formed in the lower part of the intestine, before they exit the body," Carver said.

By inflating the intestine with a long balloon, the researchers found that the wombats' intestine walls stretch unevenly, allowing for the formation of the cube shapes.

"The local strain varies from 20% at the cube's corners to 75% at its edges," the team said.

"Basically around the circumference [of the intestine], there are some parts that are more stretchy and some parts that are more stiff," Carver said. "And that is what creates the edges and the cubing."

The study's authors said the findings could have implications beyond the natural world, by helping to provide insight into new manufacturing techniques.

"There is a long history of people looking to the natural world for innovations in human society," Carver said. "This potentially reveals another mechanism of producing cubed-shaped objects and in that sense it could contribute to thinking about manufacturing these sorts of objects in different ways."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 554536

Reported Deaths: 7083
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1155051679
Ramsey47786853
Dakota42410422
Anoka38477415
Washington24913273
Stearns20994218
St. Louis16774297
Scott15946117
Wright14764127
Olmsted1273297
Sherburne1060080
Carver980145
Clay781289
Rice7632101
Blue Earth695840
Kandiyohi627380
Crow Wing615086
Chisago548250
Otter Tail542673
Benton530597
Mower450532
Goodhue442471
Douglas441870
Winona438149
Nobles400248
Morrison394659
McLeod394355
Isanti375159
Beltrami372257
Itasca370752
Polk365367
Steele361914
Becker353948
Lyon347848
Carlton329352
Freeborn326829
Pine311821
Nicollet306542
Brown294439
Mille Lacs281250
Le Sueur269722
Todd268730
Cass249626
Meeker235937
Waseca231221
Martin212529
Wabasha19953
Roseau197318
Renville172043
Hubbard171841
Dodge17123
Redwood166435
Houston162614
Cottonwood156821
Fillmore15169
Pennington150619
Chippewa145836
Wadena144021
Faribault143419
Sibley135710
Kanabec130621
Aitkin128636
Watonwan12549
Rock122719
Jackson117310
Yellow Medicine110419
Pipestone109725
Murray10229
Pope10226
Swift99518
Marshall85617
Stevens82010
Lake78419
Clearwater77414
Koochiching76913
Wilkin76812
Lac qui Parle73522
Big Stone5644
Lincoln5592
Grant5478
Norman5229
Mahnomen5048
Unassigned49578
Kittson46622
Red Lake3877
Traverse3595
Lake of the Woods3053
Cook1450

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 357796

Reported Deaths: 5821
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55970604
Linn20297330
Scott19082234
Black Hawk15550306
Woodbury14897221
Johnson1404281
Dubuque13153202
Dallas1089196
Pottawattamie10747162
Story1031147
Warren555186
Clinton537390
Cerro Gordo521986
Webster508291
Sioux506073
Marshall477174
Muscatine459896
Des Moines441465
Wapello4253120
Buena Vista421740
Jasper407670
Plymouth397079
Lee368155
Marion354575
Jones293055
Henry286137
Bremer279260
Carroll279151
Crawford262040
Boone258533
Benton250355
Washington249550
Dickinson242043
Mahaska224850
Jackson217942
Kossuth212663
Clay211025
Tama206671
Delaware202839
Winneshiek194433
Page190321
Buchanan188831
Cedar183823
Fayette182941
Wright180435
Hardin179942
Hamilton178049
Harrison176373
Clayton167055
Butler162534
Mills158620
Cherokee157138
Floyd155342
Lyon154741
Madison153919
Poweshiek152733
Allamakee149051
Iowa145524
Hancock143534
Winnebago136031
Grundy135232
Cass134354
Calhoun133211
Jefferson130635
Emmet128840
Shelby128337
Sac127219
Louisa126849
Appanoose126747
Mitchell125241
Union124032
Chickasaw122615
Humboldt118326
Guthrie117929
Franklin112721
Palo Alto110922
Howard102822
Montgomery100637
Unassigned10030
Clarke98223
Keokuk94530
Monroe94128
Ida89633
Adair84532
Pocahontas83621
Monona81230
Davis79924
Greene76710
Osceola75516
Lucas74923
Worth7078
Taylor65212
Fremont6139
Decatur5899
Van Buren55518
Ringgold53623
Wayne52123
Audubon4949
Adams3284
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 36°
Mason City
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 35°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 37°
Austin
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 37°
Charles City
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 39°
Tracking an arctic front, cooling us down for the workweek
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Electric car show

Image

Walk a Block

Image

Cleaning up Chester Woods

Image

Little Thistle collecting donations

Image

Rochester United PKG

Image

Grizzlies PKG

Image

Sara's Saturday Night Forecast

Image

April Tool's Day

Image

Byron baseball starts season strong

Image

Hayfield BB PKG

Community Events