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Wombats, the chubby and beloved, short-legged marsupials native to Australia, are central to a biological mystery in the animal kingdom: How do they produce cube-shaped poop? Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, set out to investigate.
Yang studies the hydrodynamics of fluids, including blood, processed food and urine, in the bodies of animals. She was curious how the differences in wombats' digestive processes and soft tissue structures might explain their oddly shaped scat.
Physical - Society - Division - Fluid - Dynamics
During the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics 71st Annual Meeting, which will take place Nov. 18-20 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Yang and her co-authors, Scott Carver, David Hu and undergraduate student Miles Chan, will explain their findings from dissecting the alimentary systems, or digestive tracts, of wombats.
"The first thing that drove me to this is that I have never seen anything this weird in biology. That was a mystery," said Yang. "I didn't even believe it was true at the beginning. I Googled it and saw a lot about cube-shaped wombat poop, but I was skeptical."
Yang - Co-authors - Tracts - Wombats - Motor
Yang and her co-authors studied the digestive tracts of wombats that had been euthanized following motor vehicle collisions in Tasmania, Australia. Carver, the biologist and Australian counterpart to the group of American mechanical engineers, supplied the wombat intestinal specimens.
Near the end of the intestine, they found that **** changed from liquidlike states to solid states made up of small, separated cubes. The group concluded that the varying elastic properties of wombats' intestinal walls allowed for the cube formation.
World - Structures—sugar - Cubes - Sculptures - Features—are
In the built world, cubic structures—sugar cubes, sculptures, and architectural features—are common, and produced by injection molding or extrusion. Cubes, however, are rare in the natural world. Currently, wombats are the only known species capable of producing cubes organically.
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