Creative territory marking: The wombat

Two wombats eating

Wombat poo is cubic. There are very good reasons why they have evolved to produce cubic poo. Wombats are very territorial. 

Animals have different ways of marking their territory. Dogs, for instance, wee on things. Wombats use poo. Poo that is high up, on rock, is a better marker than poo in hollows or ruts so Wombat poo is a shape that doesn’t roll easily. This is a perfect adaptation. To investigate this perhaps you can play with building blocks? Or can you form wombat poo with clay or mud? What rolls? What balances easily? What is the optimum solid for ‘solids’?

Wombats are marsupial mammals, which means that they have a pouch for their young. They are most closely related to koalas. A baby wombat is called a wombat pinkie when it is in the pouch and a wombat joey when is has fur. Interestingly, a wombat’s pouch is the other way around to that of kangaroos and koalas, with the open side pointing towards their rear. To discover why they have this adaptation, ask the children to pretend to be a wombat. They can dig out their new burrow. While digging with their front legs and then pushing the soil away with their hind legs they can ponder the question, “Why does the pouch face the way it does?” Find a picture of the front claws and look at the shape. Do they help with digging? How does the shape compare with a shovel or a digger?

Wombat teeth are really interesting too. You could compare them to your own teeth. Think about what a wombat eats and how. Look at the grinding teeth and the teeth that are used for nipping the tops off the grass. How do our teeth differ?

It is certainly interesting to learn about wombat anatomy and all its interesting “features”. One aspect of wombats’ bodies is humorously described in this beautiful cartoon. While the cartoon is more suited to adults, we hope that you and the children will find many interesting things to discover about wombat anatomy and habits.

Interesting facts for adults

Australia is the only country in the world where representatives of all three types of mammals live in the wild.

The largest group worldwide are placental mammals, who give birth to live babies and have placentas. Australian mammals included bats such as flying foxes. Humans are also part of this group.

Marsupials have pouches, such as kangaroos, wombats, possums and bilbies.

The only countries that still have monotremes in the wild are Australia and New Guinea. These are echidnas and platypus. Monotremes lay eggs, but they are still classed as mammals as they are warm-blooded vertebrates and nourish their young with milk.

Literacy links

Check out our book posts for some more wombat-inspired STEM exploration ideas: Hairy nose, itchy butt and Fire wombat

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

This passionate mathematician and former science teacher will inspire you with her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her determination to provide high-quality hands-on and fun professional development.

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