Researchers reveal how wombat feces get their shape and what they have in common with volcanic eruptions.
The unusual cubic shape of wombat feces haunted scientists for decades – they continually tried to unravel the mystery of the appearance of such a form and answer the question – is it painful for animals to defecate, writes IFL Science .
Well, the answers to these questions were obtained by the team of Dr. Scott Carver from the University of Tasmania four years ago. Moreover, she and her colleagues even won the Ig Nobel Prize for discovering how wombats produce cube-shaped excrement.
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However, over time, this was not enough and now researchers have focused on finding out why some mammals defecate “logs” and others “granules” or “cubes”.
Now, Carver and co-authors are back with new work that explains why wombat feces are that size and shape, and not rectangles, for example. But the most curious thing about this story is that scientists have found some connection with volcanic eruptions.
The researchers suggest that this form of feces is, in fact, an evolutionary advantage and can perform a number of functions, including territory protection and warning relatives.
In their study, Carver and colleagues were inspired by the perfect hexagonal shapes that can be seen on the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, as well as some other volcanic features. The formation of such regular shapes is explained by cracking caused by rapid cooling on the surface of the lava, while the future stone structures remain hot from the inside.Of course, the researchers aren’t saying that the wombat’s stomach is anything like a volcanic eruption, but scientists suggest that the drying process plays a similar role. In their study, the scientists used cornmeal in chutes lit by heat lamps, and as a result, the scientists found that the shape of the feces is determined by the moisture content in the intestines.
According to Carver, animals with less than 70% faecal moisture produce pellets—that is, they are no more than twice as long as wide. The higher the humidity, the longer, in fact, the litter will be.