This scatological discovery is “shaping up” to be big for the animal world!
Scientists have unlocked the mystery behind why wombats poop bizarre, cube-shaped pellets, linking it to the animal’s super-long and stiff intestine, according to a new study.
New research shows the short-legged marsupials take distinct dumps, resembling pieces of barbecue charcoal, because their intestines stretch up to 33 feet long — roughly 10 times their body length, according to a report published Thursday in the journal Soft Matter.
It takes four days for the 3-foot-long critter to expel waste from its 33-foot intestines, creating boxy-shaped feces as their muscles contract and it dries in parts of the colon, according to the study by University of Tasmania researchers.
“Bare-nosed wombats are renowned for producing distinctive, cube-shaped poos. This ability to form relatively uniform, clean cut feces is unique in the animal kingdom,” Dr. Scott Carver, a University of Tasmania wildlife ecologist, said in a statement.
“The rhythmical contractions help form the sharp corners of the cubes … Our research found that these cubes are formed within the last 17 percent of the colon intestine,” he added.
Carver shot down previous theories that wombat poo is a result of the animal having a square-shaped anal sphincter, or that the creatures mold their feces themselves, calling the notions “complete nonsense.”
“There were wonderfully colorful hypotheses around but no one had tested it,” he said.
A previous study noted that wombats, including baby wombats, use tactically placed dumps to communicate with one another.
The study stirred up attention online Friday, with many wondering: What is a wombat? The animals live in Australia and Tasmania, generally weigh between 45 and 75 pounds, and feed on grass and roots.