A small animal native to Australia is the protagonist of a great scientific mystery.
How is it possible that marsupials called wombats or vombatids can defecate cubes?
It's about the only known species that produce feces with these dimensionsand does so in considerable quantities.
A wombat may defecate in one night near 100 cubes, this stacks in mounds to mark territory.
Although these animals have round years like other mammals, they do not produce feces in balls or in soft piles.
A group of scientists in the United States says the reason for the strange cubes of wombats lies in the peculiar characteristics of their gut.
"The first thing that got me to study this is that I had never seen anything so strange in biology, it was a mystery," he said. Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral researcher in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.
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Yang and his colleagues studied the digestive tract of wombats slaughtered after collisions with vehicles in Tasmania.
"We began to enthusiastically dissect the animals' intestines as if it were a Christmas present," he told the BBC. David Hu, another of the researchers.
The scientists compared the vombatids 'intestines with those of the pigs and inserted expandable balloons into the animals' digestive tract to measure their elasticity.
In the case of wombats, the stools have changed from a liquid-like state to a solid state in the last 25% of the intestine. And in the last 8% of the intestinal tract, the researchers detected a large change in elasticity.
It is this variable elasticity of the intestinal walls that explains the formation of cubes of feces around two centimeters on each side.
"A third method"
The cubes allow wombats to stack their feces efficiently, not only to mark the territory but to communicate and attract other vombatids.
"Currently, we have only two methods to make cubes, shape them or cut them, now we show a third method," Yang said.
The study could help in the future to "apply a method similar to that of wombats in manufacturing processes, in order to produce cubes with soft substances instead of molding them. "
Yang and his colleagues presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society Fluid Dynamics Division, which took place this week in Atlanta.
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