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Common Wombat
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Vombatus ursinis

Common Wombats

The Wombat is a Australian marsupial, in appearance rather like a small, very short-legged and muscular bear. Wombats feed on grasses, sedges and roots, and dig extensive burrow systems with their 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 easily seen as many animals, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as a minor inconvenience to be gone through or under.

Wombats, like all the larger living marsupials, are part of the Diprotodontia, which has two sub-orders: the large and diverse Phalangerida (kangaroos, possums, and relatives), and the Vombatiformes (which is the Latin for "wombat-shaped things"). Five of the seven known families are extinct, only the koala and the three species of wombat survive. The ancestors of the wombat 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. The Diprotodon, or giant wombat, was the largest marsupial to ever live and coexisted with the earliest inhabiants of Australia.

Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around 14 days to complete digestion, and do not move quickly often. When required, however, they can easily out-run a human, and summon immense reserves of strength - the primary defence of a wombat against a predator underground (such as a dog) is to crush it against the roof of the tunnel until it stops breathing.

There are three species, all around a metre long and weighing between 20 and 35kg.


Further Reading