There are three known living species of wombat:
- Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)
- Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat or Yaminon (Lasiorhinus krefftii)
- Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons)
Wombats & People
Because of their size and habit, wombats were often mistaken for badgers by early settlers. That is why the localities such as Badger Creek, Victoria and Badger Corner, Tasmania were actually named after the wombat. There are also a town Wombat in New South Wales, the asteroid 6827 Wombat, a soccer team in Brisbane and the British anti-tank rifle L6 Wombat (by an awkward acronym) that have all been named after the creature.
As for their behaviour in captivity, wombats can be awkwardly tamed. If approached gently, they may even allow to be patted and held, showing signs of friendliness and relaxation. For that reason, they are quite popular in numerous parks, zoos and other tourist set-ups across Australia that have wombats on public display. Despite their lack of fear, wombats may display acts of aggression if upset, or when simply in a bad mood.
A charging wombat is capable of knocking an average-sized man over. Its razor sharp teeth and strong jaws can result in severe wounds. There was a case of a naturalist called Harry Frauca, who once suffered a 2 cm (0.79 in) deep wombat’s bite into the flesh of his leg while wearing rubber boots, trousers and thick woollen socks (Underhill, 1993).
What differs wombats from most of other Australian marsupials is their relatively large brain. Compound with strong survival insticts, it allows a tamed hand-raised wombat to be easily returned into the wild.
Wombats’ rodent-like front teeth and strong claws enable them to dig widespread burrow systems that provide them both a space suitable for habitation and a temporary refuge. Their most peculiar adaptation is their backwards pouch. It’s a great advantage for wombat’s young, because dirt from digging stays far from the pouch where they reside. Although wombats are mainly active during night and twilight, they can sometimes be noticed on cool or cloudy days, especially when in desperate search for food. As a concealing animals, they are very hard to spot. However, they do leave extent evidence of their passage, such as distinctive cubic faeces or damaged fences that wombats treat as minor inconveniences to be stomped through.
Wombats belong to group of herbivores. Their veggie diet consists mainly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark and roots. Their incisor teeth are adjusted to chewing tough vegetation and are somewhat similar to those of the placental mammals. Wombat’s dental structure resembles to many other plant-eating mammals, with a large diastema between the incisors and the cheek teeth being the most recognizable feature.
Their fur colour varies from a light sandy colour to brown, or even from dark grey to black. All three known existing species of wombats weigh between 20 and 35 kg (44 and 77 lb) in weight, with an average of around 1 m (39 in) in length. Females give birth to a single young in the spring, after a gestation period that lasts about 28 days. Kept in an afore mentioned pouch for a period of 6-7 months, offsprings are deprived of mother’s milk after 15 months and become sexually mature at 18 months of age.
As all the larger living marsupials, wombats belong to Diprotodontia. Their ancestors evolved sometime between 55 and 26 million years ago, but there’s a lack of useful fossil records for that period.
A range of 11 species thrived well into the ice ages. Furthermore, rhinoceros-sized Giant Wombat (Diprotodon) species contained a largest marsupial that ever lived on Earth. Although they were still common upon the arrival of the earliest human inhabitants of Australia, diprotodons were quickly extinct by Aborigeenes through excess hunting and habitat alteration.
Environment & Behaviour of Wombats
Wombats generally move slowly and are known for taking shortcuts. However, when endagereed they can easily reach up to 40 km/h (25 mph) and keep that speed for 90 seconds. Notorious for their agressive reaction to intruders, wombats fearlessly defend home territories centred on their burrows.
The Common Wombat occupies a space of up to 23 ha (57 acres), while the hairy-nose species occupy much lesser range of no more than 4 ha (9.9 acres). Their exceptionally slow metabolism results in prolonged digestion that may take up to 2 weeks. Yet, that characteristic makes it easier for wombats to survive in arid condition ranges.
Their natural enemies are Dingos and Tasmanian Devils. Wombat’s primary defence is of anatomical nature; their posterior is mostly made of non-vascular dense tissue called cartilage. Combined with a lack of a tail, their rear hide is a reliable ally against predators’ attack since they can neither bite nor injure their target. When in immediate danger, wombats quickly hide into a nearby tunnel, using their hindquarters to block a pursuing intruder. If the attacker persists, they use a merciless, yet effective strategy: when the predator forces its head over wombat’s back, it’ll use its powerful legs to crush the skull of an enemy against the tunnel roof.
Wombats are short-legged quadrupedal marsupials from Australia. These muscular animals with very short tails are approximately 39 inches (1 metre) long. Wombats mostly dwell in mountaninus, forested and wasteland habitats in south-eastern Australia and Tasmania. Their name derives from the Eora Aboriginal community, former residents of area surrounding Sydney.
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