I've been wondering this myself ever since I came across this article five minutes ago.
New research shows the short-legged marsupials take distinct dumps, resembling pieces of barbecue charcoal, because their intestines stretch up to 33 feet long — roughly 10 times their body length, according to a report published Thursday in the journal Soft Matter.
I draw two insights from this.
First, I could have easily gone the rest of my life not knowing that there is a scientific journal called "Soft Matter." (For the record "soft matter" is exactly that. Matter that is soft. There is even a Nobel-winning "founding father" of the discipline.)
Second, I would think that if you are a scientist, and you study marsupial bathroom habits, you would have have come across this solution pretty early. It's not like you were waiting for some advancement in technology to finally unlock the secrets of a wombat's innards. A measuring tape would have worked just fine.
It takes four days for the 3-foot-long critter to expel waste from its 33-foot intestines, creating boxy-shaped feces as their muscles contract and it dries in parts of the colon, according to the study by University of Tasmania researchers.
Two words: Raisin. Bran.
"Bare-nosed wombats are renowned for producing distinctive, cube-shaped poos. This ability to form relatively uniform, clean cut feces is unique in the animal kingdom," Dr. Scott Carver, a University of Tasmania wildlife ecologist, said in a statement.
Being able to produce uniform clean-cut cube-shaped poos would be a great party trick but for the fact you're talking about producing uniform clean-cut cube-shaped poos.
"The rhythmical contractions help form the sharp corners of the cubes … Our research found that these cubes are formed within the last 17 percent of the colon intestine."
That is disturbingly precise. How would you have liked to be the intern working on that one?
From the study itself:
In this combined experimental and numerical study, we show one mechanism for the formation of corners in a highly damped environment. Wombat dissections show that cubes are formed within the last 17 percent of the intestine. Using histology and tensile testing, we discover that the cross-section of the intestine exhibits regions with a two-fold increase in thickness and a four-fold increase in stiffness,
Oh yeah, I don't think I would have made it past the "highly damped environment."
Carver shot down previous theories that wombat poo is a result of the animal having a square-shaped anal sphincter,...
What I like to call, "the Play-Doh Factory thesis."
A previous study noted that wombats, including baby wombats, use tactically placed dumps to communicate with one another.
I had a dog who used to do that. I believe he was trying to communicate that he hated me.
The corners arise from faster contraction in the stiff regions and relatively slower movement in the center of the soft regions. These results may have applications in manufacturing, clinical pathology, and digestive health.
Take that, China!