Wombats are Australian marsupials; they are short-legged, muscular quadrupeds, approximately one meter (3 feet) in length with a very short tail. The name wombat comes from the Eora Aboriginal community who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area. Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. Although mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats will also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not as commonly seen as many animals, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as a minor inconvenience to be gone through or under and leaving distinctive cubic scats. Wombats are herbivores, their diet consisting mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark and roots. They are preyed on by the Tasmanian Devil. Their fur color can vary from a sandy color to brown, or from grey to black.
Wombats, like all the larger living marsupials, are part of the
Diprotodontia. The ancestors of modern wombats evolved sometime
between 55 and 26 million years ago (no useful fossil record has yet
been found for this period) and about 12 species flourished until
well into the ice ages. Among the several diprotodon (giant wombat)
species was the largest marsupial to have ever lived. The earliest
human inhabitants of Australia arrived while diprotodons were still
common, and are believed to have brought about their extinction
through hunting, habitat alteration, or both.
Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around
14 days to complete digestion, and generally move slowly. When
required, however, they can reach up to 40 km/h and maintain
that speed for up to 90 seconds.
When attacked, they can summon immense reserves of strength — one defense of a wombat against a predator (such as a Dingo) underground is to crush it against the roof of the tunnel until the wombat has caused the predator to cease breathing. Its primary defense is its toughened rear hide with most of the posterior made of cartilage which, combined with its lack of a meaningful tail, presents a difficult-to-bite target to any enemy who follows the wombat into its tunnel. One naturalist commented, that a predator biting into a wombat's rear would find it "comparable to the business end of a toilet brush".
This Wombat Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub