Scott Carver, the Australian counterpart to the U.S. team who acquired the wombat intestinal specimens, said: "There is much general interest from the public, both in Australia and internationally, about how and why wombats create cube-shaped faeces". The group concluded that the varying elastic properties of wombats' intestinal walls allowed for the cube formation.
Wombats pile their faeces to mark their territory and to communicate with one another through scent.
The higher and more prominently placed the pile of feces, the more visually distinctive it is to attract other wombats to smell and engage in communication.
But how the wombat produces the cubed shapes is a phenomenon that has puzzled many observers of the furry marsupial.
Just like a cake maker squeezing out icing with a piping bag, wombat bums appear to be built for the tricky job of squeezing out cubes, researchers found.
Near the end of the intestine, scientists observed that there are feces that transform liquidlike states to solid states made up of small, separated cubes. When measured around the circumference, some parts give more than others.
This distorts their faeces into 2cm (0.8 inch)-wide cubes. Therefore, it is important that their droppings do not roll away, and cube-shaped poop solves this problem.
Lead study author Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, investigated if differences in wombats' soft tissue structures may have an impact on the shape of their poo. "That was a mystery", said Yang. I didn't even believe it was true at the beginning. "I Googled it and saw a lot about cube-shaped wombat poop, but I was sceptical".
The team began its investigation with the carcasses of wombats that had been euthanised after vehicle collisions in Tasmania, Australia. In an upcoming paper, the scientists suggest that the other stiff and stretchy bits may only become apparent when they can inflate the intestines to a larger size.
A wombat's food travels through its system at a very slow pace, typically 14 to 18 days.
'We now have only two methods to manufacture cubes: We mold it, or we cut it.
Yang said, 'My curiosity got triggered when I realised that cubical feces exist.
During the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics 71st Annual Meeting, which will take place November 18-20 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Yang and her co-authors, Scott Carver, David Hu and undergraduate student Miles Chan, will explain their findings from dissecting the alimentary systems, or digestive tracts, of wombats.
Associate Professor Stephen Johnston said the females would bite males on their rumps, often tearing off clumps of fur, as a come-on.
The sex lives of vulnerable southern hairy-nosed wombats were revealed for the first time in a study aimed at making more babies in captivity.
Males would then chase the females around in a figure-eight pattern and return the love bites before they started the mating ritual.