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Silly Season Talk: Why Do wombats Do Cube Poop? What! By Brian “Santa” Simpson

     The silly season is beginning, Christmas decorations are up, and we are all getting ready to spend, spend, spend, plunging us into debt for most of next year, until it all begins agai, and again, and again, until things just explode. But, it is wonderful, eh? Now let’s look at those wombats, who do square poop. My, my, my, how do the clever little fellows do that, and does it hurt?

“Wombats are fossorial herbivorous Australian marsupials with the distinctive feature of producing cubic feces, which is unique in the animal kingdom. In the built world, cubic structures are created by extrusion or injection molding, but there are few examples of this feat in nature. We investigate how wombats produce cubic feces, through investigation of the structure and mechanics of two dissected alimentary systems of wombats--derived from veterinary euthanized individuals following motor vehicle collisions in Tasmania, Australia. In the final 8 percent of the intestine, feces changed from a liquid-like state into a solid state composed of separated cubes of length 2 cm. This shape change was due to the azimuthally varying elastic properties of the intestinal wall. By emptying the intestine and inflating it with a long balloon, we found that the local strain varies from 20 percent at the cube's corners to 75 percent at its edges. Thus, the intestine stretches preferentially at the walls to facilitate cube formation. 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.”

     Thanks Santa, I always wanted to know that!



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Sunday, 05 July 2020
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