Biology Thought Of The Day: Nature’s Dice


Australia is home to some of the more unique animal and plant species in the world. Some of those species are known fairly well for not being overly agreeable with humans.  From crocodiles, spiders, snakes, nettles, to wombats; Australia has plenty of things that can get you.  Wombat you ask?

The average wombat can weigh upward of 80 lbs. and 4 feet in length, and when startled have been known to charge at 25 mph.  Similarly to mini rugby players, when the victim is knocked over they can be scratched or clawed.  Wombats have also been known to be the cause of numerous car accidents akin to deer strikes in the States.

Wombats are herbivorous, nocturnal, marsupials.  This puts them in the same family as other pouched mammals such as the kangaroo and koala.  As a burrowing nocturnal animal, wombats have notoriously bad eyesight.  When they leave their burrows for the evening, they need a method to find their way back home.  Wombats accomplish this by depositing 80 - 100 poops a night in order to mark their territory, advertise to the opposite sex, as well as use them to find their way home.

But what makes poop so interesting?  In the case of the wombat, it is cubic, instead of spherical or other geometric shapes that most herbivores have. It is thought that wombats have poop in this shape to prevent the deposits from rolling off the rocks, ledges, and logs where they leave them.

Unlike a Play-doh Fun Factory, a wombats anatomy is fairly normal.  Their colons do have an unusually large amount of bacteria which break down the food by the process of microbial fermentation.  On average it takes 49 hours for the food to pass through the digestive system, but in some cases may take up to a week.  The passage of time will dry out and compact the feces such that when it is deposited, it is too hard to actually reshape.

In many cases, it can be said that we take from nature.  Perhaps we haven't yet found the 20-sided D&D die, but minimally the 6-sided variety gives a new twist to the casino game of craps.


  • Cristen Conger. "Why Is Wombat Scat Shaped Like A Cube?" How Stuff Works?
  • Cecil Adams. "Is Australia the deadliest place on earth?" The Straight Dope, 22 July 2011
  • Michele Barnes. "Husbandry Manual For Common Wombat" Australian Wildlife Experience, May 2005
  • "Wombat Myths" Wombat Protection Society Of Australia
  • Robyn Lawrence "Why are Wombat Scats Cubic" Youtube. 17 Oct 2009

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