Finally! Scientists Have Figured Out How Wombats Poop Cubes

iStock.com/burroblando
iStock.com/burroblando

The fact that wombats use their poop to mark their territory isn’t unusual in the animal kingdom. What does separate them from their furry peers is the distinctive shape of their droppings. Wombats are the only animals to poop cubes, according to Science News, and researchers think they have finally figured out how they do it.

Mechanical engineers David Hu and Patricia Yang at the Georgia Institute of Technology received a lovely gift of two frozen wombats—roadkill, mind you—from an Australian colleague. After dissecting the specimens, they analyzed the animals’ intestines and discovered that they’re incredibly stretchy. Wombats' intestines expand to two or three times their original width when feces passes through, the researchers reported at an annual meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in Atlanta.

Wombat dung
Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

To test the elasticity of different sections of intestine, the researchers took skinny balloons (the kind used to make animal shapes) and inflated them inside the organ. Not all of the sections were stretchy, though, and Yang suggested that the stiffer areas might help form the edges of the poo cubes as waste gets pushed through the last few feet of intestine. (Wombat digestive tracts measure about 30 to 40 feet, according to another study of digestion in wombats.)

The final eight percent of the intestine is also where the feces changes from “a liquid-like state into a solid state composed of separated cubes,” each measuring about three-quarters-of-an-inch in length, according to researchers.

The advantage of wombats' oddly-shaped dung, according to Science News, is that they’re better for stacking and they don’t roll off rocks as easily. Wombats tend to produce 80 to 100 turds per night, and they prefer to deposit them atop rocks, logs, and piles of dirt, where they can easily be seen. The smell also helps them navigate better at night.

Although impressive in their own right, wombats aren’t the only animals whose fecal matter seem to defy physics. Take sloths, for instance: A single bowel movement can weigh up to a third of a sloth’s body weight.

[h/t Science News]

The Reason Why a Puppy in North Carolina Was Born Bright Green

Anastasiia Cherniavskaia, iStock via Getty Images
Anastasiia Cherniavskaia, iStock via Getty Images

When a dog owner in Canton, North Carolina, first saw her new puppy, she knew exactly what to name him. Hulk the infant pup is much smaller than his namesake, but like the comic book character, he's green from head to toe.

As WLOS reports, Hulk was born with a coat of fur the color of avocado toast. He is one of eight puppies in a litter a white German Shepherd named Gypsy delivered the morning of January 10. Even though one came out lime-green, it was healthy, normal birth, according to Gypsy's owner Shana Stamey.

Hulk's unique coloration isn't a sign of any health issues. Meconium—or the matter in the intestines of a fetus—is mostly made of water, but it can also contain something called biliverdin. This chemical makes bile, and when it gets into the amniotic fluid of a birth sac, it can stain a puppy's fur green. This is especially noticeable when the newborn's fur is white, as in Hulk's case. You can see the rare phenomenon in the video below.

After a few weeks of baths and licks from mom, the meconium stains will eventually fade to reveal his natural white coat. But while he won't be green forever, Hulk gets to keep his colorful name for life.

[h/t WLOS]

Not-So-Fancy Feast: Your Cat Probably Would Eat Your Rotting Corpse

Tycson1/iStock via Getty Images
Tycson1/iStock via Getty Images

Cat enthusiasts often cite the warmth and companionship offered by their pet as reasons why they’re so enamored with them. Despite these and other positive attributes, cat lovers are often confronted with the spurious claim that, while their beloved furry pal might adore them when they’re alive, it won’t hesitate to devour their corpse if they should drop dead.

Though that’s often dismissed as negative cat propaganda spread by dog people, it turns out that it’s probably true. Fluffy might indeed feast on your flesh if you happened to expire.

A horrifying new case study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences offers the fresh evidence. The paper, first reported by The Washington Post, documents how two cats reacted in the presence of a corpse at Colorado Mesa University’s Forensic Investigation Research Station, or body farm, where the deceased are used to further forensic science for criminal investigations.

The study’s authors did not orchestrate a meeting between cat and corpse. The finding happened by accident: Student and lead author Sara Garcia was scanning surveillance footage of the grounds when she noticed a pair of cats trespassing. The cats, she found, were interested in the flesh of two corpses; they gnawed on human tissue while it was still in the early stages of decomposition, stopping only when the bodies began leaching fluids.

The cats, which were putting away one corpse each, didn’t appear to have a taste for variety, as they both returned to the same corpse virtually every night. The two seemed to prefer the shoulder and arm over other body parts.

This visual evidence joins a litany of reports over the years from medical examiners, who have observed the damage left by both cats and dogs who were trapped in homes with deceased owners and proceeded to eat them. It’s believed pets do this when no other food source is available, though in some cases, eating their human has occurred even with a full food bowl. It’s something to consider the next time your cat gives you an affectionate lick on the arm. Maybe it loves you. Or maybe it has something else in mind.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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