You may have heard about tales of wombat heroics during the great Australian bushfire recently – that these pudgy marsupials saved countless wildlife with their burrows. Here are some more facts about these adorable creatures that’ll make you want to get to know them more.
Wombats have hard backsides
Despite looking fluffy, a wombat’s backside is actually hard because it’s mostly made of cartilage. Their buns of steel are actually a defense strategy: when threatened, a wombat would dive head first into a tunnel and block the entrance with its rump. That’s not all – when the predator reaches inside the tunnel for its prey, the wombat will then drive its butt upwards, crushing the predator’s skull against the roof of its burrow!
They poop cubes
Believe it or not, the wombat is the only animal that literally shits bricks – its poop is cube-shaped. There are theories as to why their poop is so: first, their poop is very dry which helps it form more rigid shapes, and their intestines have ravines in them. However they’re formed, wombats use their poop to mark territories – they can produce over 100 cubic poops per day! – since their cube poops don’t roll away easily.
They can really run
It may look pudgy and slow, but a wombat can run up to 25mph for a distance of 150m! Compare that to Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, who runs at an average speed of just 23mph over 100m. There are reports of human injuries from wombat attacks, including injuries from being bowled over by charging wombat. They may look like cute 80-pound balls of fur, but they’re also packed with sharp teeth and claws.
Their pouches are backwards
Wombats give birth to underdeveloped babies just like other marsupials. These joeys – as a marsupial babies are known – crawl into the mother’s pouch to develop further, but unlike other marsupials, a wombat’s pouch is positioned backwards – meaning the opening faces the butt rather than the head of the mother. This is so that she can dig without getting dirt on her baby!
Wombats make fireproof mazes
Wombat burrows can be up to 30m long and 3.5m deep, and wide enough for wallabies, foxes, or a small human to crawl into. As excellent diggers, wombats may have up to 12 burrows for different purposes – some of which are shared with other wombats. Their burrows are sufficiently deep to be fireproof; after a fire, a wombat can subsist on roots and bark until the grass regrows.
Males have two penises
Okay, that’s not exactly right – they have a penis with two heads, called a bifurcated penis. This corresponds to the females’ two vaginas (shocked yet?). Unlike humans, male wombats only use their penises to pass sperm – like other marsupials, they pee out of their cloaca which is an opening somewhere under their hard butts.