Sunday 16 December 2018

Mystery of wombats' cubed poo is solved

 

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Chris Baynes

It is a biological curiosity that has perplexed scientists and fascinated the internet.

Now researchers believe they have solved one of the animal kingdom's smelliest mysteries: how wombats produce cuboid poo. The podgy marsupials' six-sided portions of dung are unique in nature. And they produce them prolifically, depositing between 80 and 100 cubes every night.

Wombats' distinctive defecation has an important function, allowing the animals to pile faeces high to mark their territory and communicate through scent.

But scientists have always been uncertain how wombats - which have a circular anus - fashion their faeces into their unusual shape. Now, a team of US mechanical engineers and Australian biologists believe they have flushed away any doubt.

The researchers, including Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, studied the digestive tracts of wombats that had been put down after being hit by road vehicles in Tasmania, Australia.

Near the end of the intestine, they found that faeces changed from a liquid state to a solid state made up of small, separated cubes. The researchers concluded that the varying elastic properties of wombats' intestinal walls allowed for cube formation.

Independent News Service

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