Able to run as fast as human beings, known as wisdom when in groups, and with teeth that never stop growing, we thought today would be a good day to explore the world of wombats. To be fair, every day is a good day to explore the world of wombats!
So, is a wombat a big rat? In this chitchat we’re on that!
What’s the deal with their poop? We’ll give you the scat facts!
Are they fit…are they fat…and what about their habitat?
Do they fight each other? Is there wombat combat?
Read on to find out the answers to all these questions and more…including why some people think wombats are capable of complex mathematical operations!
Table of Contents
Are wombats rodents?
No, they aren’t rodents. Although the two incisor teeth they have in each jaw resemble those of rodents, they are, in fact, marsupials whose closest living relatives are koala bears.
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Like koalas, wombats are herbivores. Their sharp teeth are well adapted for gnawing their diet of tough grasses, bark, herbs, and roots. They munch on those tough treats not only for the nutritional value they provide but for dental management: wombats’ teeth never stop growing.
Another habit they share in common with koalas is their fondness for a doze: they can easily snooze for 16 hours a day before heading out for their usual nocturnal activities.
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Wombats are short-legged, muscular quadrupeds with brown, tan, grey, or black fur and stubby tails. Growing to around 1.3 meters (51 in) in length and weighing up to 35 kg (77 lb), they are the second-largest marsupial and one of the largest burrowing mammals in the world.
Modern day wombats are related to the extinct giant wombat (Diprotodon), the largest marsupial ever.
As marsupials, wombats have pouches. They are distinct from many others because they have evolved a backward-facing pouch, an adaptation that means they don’t flick soil inside when burrowing.
What’s in a name?
The name ‘wombat’ comes from the Darug language of the Indigenous Australian Darug people. For a number of years, the spelling varied according to differences in dialect before the contemporary spelling was settled on in around 1798.
Types of wombat
There are three species of wombat:
- the bare-nosed or common wombat,
- the Northern hairy-nosed wombat, and
- the Southern hairy-nosed wombat.
The common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is comprised of three subspecies – the mainland, Tasmanian and Flinders Island wombats. Despite their names, neither the Northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) nor the Southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) have hair on their noses, just a few hairs inside their nostrils.
Amongst other duties, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) monitors animal populations. The Northern hairy-nosed wombat is now one of the rarest mammals in the world and is critically endangered.
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The Southern hairy-nosed wombat has a disparate and declining population and is officially regarded as being near threatened. Contrary to its name, the common wombat is no longer as widespread as it once was, and its numbers decline.
All wombat species are accomplished architects, constructing intricate burrow networks composed of numerous chambers connected by tunnels. At the breeding time, they are made more comfortable, furnished with grass and leaves.
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The gestation period of wombats varies between 20 and 30 days, depending on the species. Baby wombats, known as joeys, weigh only 1 gram (3/100ths of an ounce) at birth and live in their mother’s pouch until around six months of age. They use the time in that protected environment well and are largely able to care for themselves only a month later.
They are weaned at 15 months, and at a year and a half, they are sexually mature and ready to mate and contribute to bringing the next generation into existence. That said, they have time: wombats who manage to avoid predators and find sufficient
Unlike their marsupial cousins kangaroos, wombats don’t tend to fight each other too often. Although they will often live alone, they are relatively happy to share their burrows with up to ten other wombats but are less amenable where it comes to feeding grounds. They mark these by leaving scent trails and scats.
Wombats don’t have any natural predators but can find themselves in danger of being attacked, killed and eaten by Tasmanian devils, wild dogs, dingoes, foxes and eagles.
Wombats fiercely defend their burrows from invaders, using their rump’s thick hide and cartilage as an effective block. The predator finds it difficult to get a grip or bite, but even if they do, the wombat’s tough butt is resistant to injury. Further, the predator runs the risk of having its skull crushed between the roof of the burrow and the wombat’s rear end or powerful hind legs.
Then again, it’s not all about fighting. Check out this touching example of interspecies affection.
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So are wombats good at math?
Well, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for this, even though we know they can cube their number 2s! What are we talking about, we hear you say? Let’s discuss.
Wombat scat facts
So far as we know, wombats cannot cube the number 2, but they can cube their number 2s! Amazingly, wombat poop is shaped in little packets – excellent if you need confidence that your territorial markers aren’t going to be easily blown or rolled away. However, we don’t recommend you doing the same thing!
They are the only animal in the world that produces six-sided stools and are remarkably prolific in doing so, popping out 100 of them every day. Interestingly, these poop packets can also be well-being indicators: the more square they are, the more healthy the wombat who deposited them!
Okay, we can’t think of a better place than that at which to close! We hope you’ve enjoyed our wander through the wonderful world of the waddling wombats!