Saturday 21 September 2019

Scientists finally reveal why wombats’ faeces is cube-shaped

The Australian marsupial is the only known species to produce cube-shaped poo.

(mlharing/Getty Images)
(mlharing/Getty Images)

By Emily Chudy, Press Association

Scientists have revealed how and why wombats produce cube-shaped faeces, the only known species to produce droppings in this shape.

The Australian marsupial produces about 80 to 100 cubes of poo each night, and their shape can help the animal mark its territory and stop the faeces from rolling away.

A team led by Patricia Yang of the Georgia Institute of Technology found that wombats can take about two weeks to digest its food, meaning faeces becomes dry and solid before it is passed.

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

They explained 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 centimetres.

The team of scientists said the findings could prove useful in areas beyond the natural world, explaining the study’s use in developing new manufacturing techniques.

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(LukeWaitPhotography and keiichihiki/Getty Images)

The study said: “In the built world, cubic structures are created by extrusion or injection moulding, but there are few examples of this feat in nature.

“This study addresses the long-standing mystery of cubic scat formation and provides insight into new manufacturing techniques for non-axisymmetric structures using soft tissues.”

The team presented their findings at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Atlanta.

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