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.
For those wondering what a cuboid #wombat turd actually looks like - it looks like a particularly rustic loaf of br… https://t.co/xD03aIVz83— Tom Holland (@Tom Holland)1542615457.0
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:
[Deep breath] scientists stuffed balloons into dead wombats to learn why they poop cubes https://t.co/X2Fxs8V5kh https://t.co/3CSJKviirD— The Washington Post (@The Washington Post)1542650368.0
You good, WaPo?
And... it just sort of snowballed from there:
@washingtonpost That's why I did it too.— Call Me Shorts Boy (@Call Me Shorts Boy)1542650489.0
@washingtonpost I mean, who amongst us can honestly say they've never done that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Just Curt (sorry) (@Just Curt (sorry))1542650472.0
@washingtonpost same— Chris Shue (@Chris Shue)1542650949.0
@washingtonpost ...— Liatris Gayfeather (@Liatris Gayfeather)1542651366.0
@washingtonpost Coincidentally, Poop Cubes was my nickname in college. Or, maybe it was Dead Wombat.— Ron Gilbert (@Ron Gilbert)1542650930.0
@washingtonpost In all seriousness, though, "Dead Wombat and the PoopCubes" would be a great band name.— Doug Fun (@Doug Fun)1542651415.0
@washingtonpost https://t.co/B5SmPxkNLu— Mako2 (@Mako2)1542651575.0
@washingtonpost @markberman I'd like to take a moment to say that @washingtonpost should have had sponcered ads on… https://t.co/wS0Yj4VEP2— Faris (@Faris)1542650723.0
Today I learnt: 1) wombat poop is cube shaped 2) wombats stack their poop to mark their territory 3) wombat poop… https://t.co/ksBcwrNW6w— Jeannette Ng 吳志麗 (@Jeannette Ng 吳志麗)1542664826.0
Just in time for Christmas!
@holland_tom Ah, it's good to know I've been eating Tootsie Roll candy bars for years and now I know they've been m… https://t.co/0kwO1WrMJ1— Nikki (@Nikki)1542681716.0
@theweeklytimes Honestly, less concerned about the mechanism wombats use to produce that cube-shape than I am about… https://t.co/LMZuqnm4kb— J. Michael Straczynski (@J. Michael Straczynski)1542678798.0
@theweeklytimes It’s because they eat three square meals a day— MimeChoirTheSequel (@MimeChoirTheSequel)1542697360.0
But the final word came from the wombats themselves:
Pooing cubes is a show of how tough a wombat you are. Glad humans are finally taking our engineering advice. All th… https://t.co/GnOwHcvESR— Wombatty 🐾 (@Wombatty 🐾)1542665183.0
Apparently it's the cube-pooping wombats' world, we're just living in it!