Biology / Science

Concerning wombats

Sometimes, science is super serious and important.

Sometimes, scientists spend inordinate amounts of time figuring out how and why wombats pass cube-shaped faeces. The why has had a theory for a while, mind you: wombats mark their territories with piles of excrement, so the cube shape helps to prevent individual droppings rolling away, facilitating the territory-marking. But the how is a bit of a mystery — cubes aren’t exactly common in biology, and it does seem like a shape that would be hard to pass through the anal sphincter, etc.

Or it was a bit of a mystery! Now it’s more or less figured out, using the entrails of dead wombats. (Great…) Measurements suggest that it’s all in the way the last part of the wombat intestines stretch and deform, or don’t, alternately. Righto.

Scientists being scientists, they did suggest a potential application for engineering: right now there’s only two ways to make a cube: mould it, or cut it. This suggests a third way… though it doesn’t sound very efficient to me, compared to moulding or cutting!

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