You may or may not have heard that wombats have unconventional droppings.
Just like koalas and kangaroos, wombats are marsupials. This means they have small pouches, which they tuck away their newborns in to nurse and carry them, until they are old enough to face the world.
Wombats are nocturnal and ferret around their territory come nightfall, foraging for tasty grasses, roots, and shoots to feast upon. Although they don’t spend too long doing this, as like cats, they have a penchant for sleeping – sometimes up to 16 hours of their day is spent curled up asleep. Because of their nocturnal nature, their eyesight is less developed than a creature made for daylight and so a great deal of sensory input comes from smell.
They are the largest burrowing mammals in the world, weighing a whopping 40 kilograms (88 pounds). Despite their somewhat cumbersome-looking stout bodies and sleepy nature, they can actually run pretty fast and are able to sprint up to 40 kph (25 mph).
Wombats are extremely territorial and definitely like their own space. Even families won’t share burrows. This isn’t actually that unusual in the animal kingdom – but this method of leaving neatly packaged territorial signposts is.
Many animals make use of leaving their excrement to mark where their land starts, and wombats are no exception. Leaving their poop around lets others know whose turf they are on, if there are any females in season nearby, and it can also be used to prevent confrontation.
To communicate all of this information, they decorate the tops of rocks and fallen trees with their cub-shaped poop for all others to see and take note. Each time they have to go, they pass around four to eight, 2-centimetre wide cubes. Ouch.
This is where the cube shape comes in handy. Having edges stops it from rolling away and disappearing beneath undergrowth or getting misplaced, whereas a nice neat cube is more likely to stay put.
If they were to be like other marsupials and produce rounder pellets, this would inevitably lead to a lot of misplaced poo and wombat conflict.
And in case you were interested, some entrepreneurial people have made great use of the wombat’s cubic waste, and as they say one man’s waste is another man’s treasure. It turns out; the fibrous composition of the poo can be transformed into high quality paper.