|From Trousering Your Weasel|
Before I’d even gotten out of bed, I’d been sent the link to the latest wombat poop article, twice. As might be expected, dozens more followed throughout the day, although there is really no point in counting after number two. My friends believe I can squeeze a blog post out of something like this easily, with the only problem being where to snap it off.
But I had already written just about as much as a person should about the subject in my groundbreaking scientific opus, Trousering Your Weasel,* or so I thought. Short of fresh insight into the subject of wombats and their square poop, I didn’t think there was anything left to clean up. But new research has emerged in the field of Biological Fluid Dynamics.
|Photo by Bobbie Irwin, my very sister|
Among other discoveries, it was found that in the final eight percent of the wombattal intestine, the contents change from a liquid-like state to a solid state. This is the primary difference between wombats and cows or mashed-potato extruders, for both of which the material sets up extra corpus. I myself have noticed quite a bit of variability in the state of my contents even over the course of a typical morning, with the solid state prevailing at first, and becoming more enthusiastic later on.
The scientists in question, including a Dr. Hu, from the University of First Base, examined the alimentary canals of wombatroids by emptying the intestine and inserting and inflating a long balloon. The breakthrough occurred when they began utilizing deceased wombats that could be reliably pinned down; previous attempts proved vexing when the wombats under study kept flying around the room backwards. There simply aren’t enough graduate students in the world for that.
The balloon experiment showed that the intestine itself has varying elasticity and the contents are constrained at the corners, producing a cuboid like dimensional lumber, but no explanation was given for how the turds were expelled without the tapering action most of us find comfortable. It was assumed, by me, that the process resembles the calving of a glacier, writ small and brown, with the chunks falling where they may.
But such was not the case. In fact, the cubes themselves are completely formed inside the wombat, due to a process that remains mysterious, and the animal then tumbles out dice at the rate of about a hundred per day.
|Photo by Bobbie Irwin, my very sister|
Prevailing theories held that wombats poop cubes to mark their territories, which is true only so far as the presence of wombat poop is reasonable evidence for the existence of a wombat in that particular territory. “We’re in wombat territory,” a field biologist might thus note, without being able to conclude that she is not also inside an overlapping potoroo perimeter, or perhaps in the proximity of a platypus.
A sensible explanation for the compaction of the cubes is that wombats are conserving all the water they can, and if you really, really, really need water you can press it out of your poop. (We have some relevant experience here with our two cats, one of whom produced turds so dry you could pick them up with your fingers and not even bother to wash afterwards, unless it was real close to dinner and the Queen was coming. The other produces mostly moist marvels, and in a tremendous stroke of good fortune, she is the one who always uses the litter box.)
So the wombat squares off its dookie by compressing it inside intestinal walls that have a certain amount of “give” in some places and not others. Specifically, the intestinal wall has azimuthally varying elastic properties, it says here in the abstract, and bully for the wombat, because anything worth doing is worth doing azimuthally, as I sometimes say.
There is no grant money for research you can’t eventually wring a profit out of, so the scientists suggest that wombat pooping might illuminate a new method of manufacturing cubes, using soft tissues. Whose soft tissues has not been addressed, so don’t sign anything without reading it first.
* Trousering Your Weasel is still available, signed by the author, and makes the world’s best Christmas present for the money, which is a ridiculously low $13. What was I thinking?