I am indebted to reader AnnieS for bringing this article to my attention, and where were the rest of y’all? Literally dozens of people must have known that wombats produced cubic poop and didn’t tell me. Don’t hold it in, people. Cubic poops are the building blocks of a blog post, at the least. Add a plumb bob, a level and a vat of Febreze, and you’ve got yourself a domicile.
Wombat poop looks like the squared-off chunks from the larger size Tootsie Rolls of my youth. Tootsie Rolls didn’t taste all that great, but they were cheap and didn’t taste all that great for a long long time, and I speculate that the same could be said for wombat poop. If all goes well, we shall never know. But why, you might ask, do wombats crank out cubes in the first place?
The prevailing theory includes the observation that many animals poop to mark their territory. According to this scenario, some among the early wombattery noticed that turds with corners did not roll away, and they popped them out on rocks and logs like heads on a pike, proclaiming: keep out, this is my space. I would argue that this is at best a secondary reason to poop, but it has merit. I used to do the same thing with used Kleenex and toenail clippings when I had roommates. Also, the wombat can be confident his crap will remain where he left it, and can easily follow them to find his way home. Since he snaps off 80-100 dice a day, this can get him pretty far afield.
This theory implies that without boxy poop, all the wombats in a given population trying to find their way home via the process of elimination might wind up bunched together in a ravine, or some other low spot. I see a number of problems with this. For one, I have never noticed that shit in general does a lot of rolling. It’s sticky. I have counted on this very property of shit over the years, as one who can only find the direction of a slope in the woods by observing which of my feet gets wet when I pee. Also, you can roll dice. Especially in craps.
It’s hard to squeeze out a solid evolutionary advantage to cube-pooping. Wombats do take fourteen days to digest their food, so that suggests a certain amount of backup, and their posteriors are made of cartilage. There is much to indicate that squaring up one’s poop takes a toll.
Whatever the reason, somebody has found a market in paper made of wombat poop. It is dense and fibrous, and, after all, it’s already square, but I suspect that the original innovator got the idea because of the poop’s stay-puttedness. “Look,” our inventor said, a dim light bulb going off over his head, “it’s stationary.” This is the kind of thing you get in the spell-check generation, and also explains why so many little asses are running boroughs in New York City.
Speaking of burrows, which we almost were, that is where wombats live. They are excellent excavators, spending a lot of time pointed downwards with their bony rears in the air. Being marsupials, they carry their young in a pouch for six to seven months, while they tell them how smart and talented they are. They come back later after they spend some time in the real world and discover no one else wants to buy their drawings. The pouches are installed backwards, so dirt doesn’t get in them while the mama wombat digs into her burrow. This situation puts the little ones at risk of falling out when she goes back uphill, but fortunately, baby wombats are square. They don’t go anywhere.
All of this is a lot to ask natural selection to account for. The alternative is to postulate that God, by the eighteenth or nineteenth day, just flang out a bony-assed fuzzy critter that carries its young in a pocket with a view of its own butt and likes to produce geometrically pleasing turds on rocks, just for the pure hell of it. I’m a science girl, but I’m going with Number Two. That’s sure what I’d do.