This week our host Romi introduces us to the wombat. Watch the video to learn more about this cute and quirky Australian species!

A common wombat:

Credit: JJ Harrison ([email protected]), CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About wombats:

  • Wombats live in Australia, a country located in Oceania in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • There are three species of wombats in Australia: the Common wombat, the Northern hairy-nosed wombat, and the Southern hairy-nosed wombat.
  • Wombats are one of the world’s largest burrowing animals, at approximately 3 feet (1 meter) in length.
  • Their burrow systems can be up to 100 feet (30 meters) long. They dig their burrows with their front teeth and powerful claws.
  • A wombat’s teeth continue to grow throughout its life.
  • Female wombats can be slightly larger than same-aged males.
  • A baby wombat is called a joey.
  • The joey spends its first five months in its mother’s pouch.
  • Wombats have a backward-facing pouch, unlike kangaroos, which have a pouch that faces forward or up. The backward-facing pouch protects the wombat joey from soil when its mother is digging.
  • Wombat poop is interesting. It is not round, but rather cubed!
  • Wombats usually poop on slightly raised places like stones, sticks, or clumps of grass.
  • They use their poop to mark territories and attract mates. One hypothesis (or idea) for why wombat poop is cube-shaped is that this shape makes the poop less likely to roll away.

A piece of wombat poop:

Wombat poop. Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Glossary:

WombatA short, stocky burrowing marsupial native to Australia.
MarsupialA group of mammals that are born at an early stage of development and then typically continue to grow in a pouch. Members of this group include kangaroos and wallabies, possums, and wombats. Most marsupials live in Australia but some live in South America and there is one marsupial (the Virginia opossum) living in North America.
PouchA pocket-like body part found on female marsupials that is where the young baby is nourished (fed) and kept protected (safe and warm) after being born.
BurrowAn underground dwelling (or home) dug by an animal.
TerritoryAn area defended by an animal or group of animals.
MateA breeding partner.

Let’s investigate the shape of poop!

Create your own wombat poop out of scrunched-up paper, playdough, clay, or modeling clay. Make two types of poop: round-shaped poop and cube-shaped poop. Now, have some fun! Place the two types of poop on raised or rounded surfaces, such as a log, an upside down bowl, or a rock. Test what happens.

What did you find? (In science, these are called your findings or results.)

Did one type of poop roll off the surface or surfaces you tested more easily?

Wombats use poop to send important messages to other wombats. Scientists think that poop that remains in place might make a more effective wombat phone!

Comprehension questions:

  • Why is wombat poop cube-shaped, according to researchers?
  • What is a group of wombats called?
  • Name two physical features that help wombats burrow underground.
  • Name two predators of the wombat and describe how wombats defend themselves against these predators.

Read more on Mongabay:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/why-do-wombats-poop-cubes-candid-animal-cam-is-in-australia/

En Español:

Lee más aquí: https://es.mongabay.com/2020/11/video…

Acknowledgements from Romi: Special thanks to Dr. Christine Hosking for sharing this footage with us. Dr. Hosking is a semi-retired researcher with the University of Queensland. As a conservation biologist, she is always interested in the environment and wildlife around her. The images were taken with her wildlife camera at a private property on the East Coast of Tasmania, in an area called the Chain of Lagoons.