animals

Why wombats excrete dice

The waste product of wombats’ digestion is somewhat reminiscent of cubes. In our guide you can find out how this happens and what the small Australians have over other animal species.


The wombats' cube-shaped droppings certainly have a sense for the animals - Shutterstock / Robyn Butler

The wombats’ cube-shaped droppings certainly have a sense for the animals – Shutterstock / Robyn Butler

You rarely see such excrement. Neatly cube-shaped wombats bring their bowel movements to light. The Australian inhabitants, who belong to the marsupials and are relatively unknown in this country, still pose a mystery: How does their intestine manage to form the indigestible into cubes? At least scientists have been able to clarify how the animals take advantage of this fact.

Wombats: Angular droppings for marking

The small marsupials limit their territory with their angular droppings. The cube-shaped excretions are practical, so they don’t just roll away on tree trunks or rocky outcrops. Wombats definitely have this advantage over other animal species, because no other animal is able to stake out its own territory with dice. The intense smell of the faeces effectively keeps other species from entering. But their square, odor-intensive legacies are not only used to show other wombats “this far and no further”: wombats do not have particularly good eyesight, but they do have a well-developed sense of smell. Your own scent brand is a good thing to find your way back to your own cave at night.

Bear or wombat?  This little Australian resident could be both - Image: Shutterstock / Marco Tomasini
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07/02/2014 – 4:25 p.m

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How do the animals produce the cubes?

Some would now think that the anus is a square opening. However, it is not like that. In fact, within the intestine and due to the structure of the inner wall of the intestine, the feces are pressed into cubes. Because this is now being deprived of an extremely large amount of fluid, the dry substance retains its shape for the remainder of its journey through the digestive tract until it is excreted. Wombats, which are closely related to koalas, are strictly herbivores. Due to the raw fibers contained in the plant-based food, the digestion process in the animals also takes a correspondingly long time – namely up to 18 days.

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