American scientists have finally solved the mystery of how Australia’s wombat are able to produce cube-shaped poo.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology euthanised wombats who were involved in vehicle collisions in Tasmania and then investigated their digestive tracts.
They noted that wombats are the only animals that can physically produce cubed faeces. The only other ways of creating this shape is by either cutting or moulding an object.
“In the built world, cubic structures are created by extrusion or injection moulding, but there are few examples of this feat in nature,” the authors wrote in their study.
It takes about two weeks for wombats to finish digesting their food.
The researchers uncovered that the wombat’s waste hardened in the last 8 per cent of their intestine.
It no longer flowed like a liquid through their body, rather changing into separated cubes measuring about two centimetres in length.
“My curiosity got triggered when I realised that cubical faeces exist,” lead researcher Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering, said.
“I thought it was not true in the first place.”
According to Australian Geographic, wombats can produce between 80 to 100 cubes each night. This helps the animal mark its territory.
The wombat’s body is able to create this cubic poop because its intestine is able to be expanded as food is absorbed.
Researchers inflated a long balloon inside the wombats’ intestines after emptying them and discovered that its walls stretched unevenly, enabling the formation of cube shaped waste.
“The local strain varies from 20 per cent at the cube’s corners to 75 per cent at its edges,” the team said. “Thus, the intestine stretches preferentially at the walls to facilitate cube formation.”
The researchers presented their findings at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Atlanta on Sunday.
They believe that the revelation will help engineers find another way of making cubes as there are only two currently known methods – cutting or moulding.
The wombat’s intestines suggest a third route is possible.
“It would be a cool method to apply to the manufacturing process,” Dr Yang said.
“We can learn from wombats and hopefully apply this novel method to our manufacturing process. We can understand how to move this stuff in a very efficient way.”