Ever wondered why wombats poop cubes? No? Fine, but you're about to find out!
Cute, fuzzy little wombats, the little guys from Australia that sort of look like a cross between a panda and the tiniest little grizzly bear you've ever seen OMG THEY'RE SO CUUUUUTE *squeals*, make 80-100 pieces of poop-dice every night. In the words of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, "Now that's a lot of--" well, you know.
Scientists think the poop-cubes are a means of communicating to other wombats--a way of advertising information about their environments or predators, using poop, so they could frankly use a seminar on effective communication because there are better ways to get your point across. Is there someone in wombat HR that could hold a meeting? Poop communication seems needlessly aggressive.
Anyway, cube-shaped poop is easier to stack into piles for communicating, apparently, which... okay wombats, I guess.
But how do they make cube-shaped poop? Well, a team of scientists think they've cracked the code. Wombats take two weeks to digest their food, which sounds like a nightmare, and when it reaches the final 8% of the intestine, it changes from a liquid to a solid. The researchers found that wombats' intestinal walls stretch unevenly, which mashes the dung into cubes.
They discovered this by stuffing dead wombats' intestines with balloons, which is mortifying and IDK if I can ever look at a wombat again. *checks wombats* Wait nope, still cute. But this balloon thing is still terrible.
Anyway. "Basically around the circumference [of the intestine], there are some parts that are more stretchy and some parts that are more stiff. And that is what creates the edges and the cubing," explained University of Tasmania wildlife ecologist Scott Carver, one of the authors of the poop-cube study.
And, wombats may even be innovators: their poop-cubes could shed insight on better manufacturing techniques. "There is a long history of people looking to the natural world for innovations in human society," Carver said. "This potentially reveals another mechanism of producing cubed-shaped objects and in that sense it could contribute to thinking about manufacturing these sorts of objects in different ways."
So, you know, your kids' toy blocks could just end up being the latest advance in wombat poop-cube technology. IDK man, I think this Carver guy needs to chill.
Anyway, this being a story about poop-cubes, the social media reaction was, you know, interesting!
Firstly, it wasn't just me who was sicked out by the intestine balloons:
You good, WaPo?
And... it just sort of snowballed from there:
Just in time for Christmas!
But the final word came from the wombats themselves:
Apparently it's the cube-pooping wombats' world, we're just living in it!