Wombats (Vombatidae) are short stocky marsupials which are found in the southeastern Australia. Wombats are grazing species and are counted among the world’s largest burrowers. They fancy making homes in a number of habitats such as mountainous regions, forestry areas or heathland regions of Australia. Of all the living species, three wombats are of the same size and possess the same body shape.
Wombat Facts For Kids
Description and Size
- While the common wombat displays pale gray to rich brown body color, the hairy-nosed wombats are silver-gray.
- The adult bare-nosed wombats are one meter long from nose to tail.
- They have got the shoulder height of 25 cm. These are usually found in the mainland Australia.
- On average, the mainland wombats weigh 26 kg but some species can be as heavy as 35 kg.
- Wombats living in Tasmania are relatively smaller in size.
- Flinders Island wombats are 78 cm long with the weight measuring at 17.6 kg.
- The northern hairy-nosed wombats measures one meter in length and they weigh from 30 – 32.5 kilograms.
- Male and female wombats have almost the same physical appearance.
- Wombats are expert diggers and their skeletal is well adapted to digging burrows.
- They have pointed ears, powerful forearms, and broad strong claws.
Head and Face
- Wombats have a robust head and it is least likely to be damaged when they use their head to move heavy objects. The bones of the skull are too strong to be hit. While digging, if a wombat comes across a stubborn stone then it simply pushes the stone away or sometimes lift it out of the way.
- There are long sensitive whiskers on the wombat’s face. They have dark brown eyes being fit to the side of the head, a feature that prevents them from injury while digging as and when an animal passes through the undergrowth.
- Wombats have fleshy eyelids and limited short eyelashes. They have poor eyesight and because of it wombats spend much of their time in dark, or underground or abroad at night. They use other senses than good eyesight.
- Bare-nosed wombats have small rounded ears but the hairy-nosed wombats have pointed ears. Unlike kangaroo, wombats cannot flick its ears through 180 degrees. Instead the wombat moves its entire head to find out the precise direction of a sound.
- Wombat’s large nose is clearly visible on its face. The nostril’s openings are extremely large and so are the nasal passages.
- They have a remarkable sense of smell which is followed by the sense of hearing.
- They have fleshy upper and lower lips.
- Wombat’s teeth continue to fall and grow throughout the animal’s life.
Legs and Feet
- Wombats have tough and short legs that are equipped not only for digging but also for lifting the heavy body.
- While walking, wombats place the entire foot on the ground. This explains why these animals prefer to walk than to run. Carnivores such as tigers usually walk on the ball of the foot.
- Wombats have broad front feet with five digits together with the powerful blunted claws. These claws are blunted because wombats dig too much.
- The hind feet are longer than the front feet. There are fleshy sole-pads underneath these feet and these pads are enclosed in a leathery skin. As the wombat gets older, the leathery skin goes rough. This skin is pink when the animal leaves its pouch but it turns to black few months later.
Coat and Skin
- The southern hairy-nosed species are smaller. They are 85 centimeters long with the weight of 25 kilograms.
- Bare-nosed wombats vary in coat color. Some are glossy black, chocolate brown, silver-grey, grey brown, while others are sandy and creamy-colored species.
- Some wombats are however albino. Many black wombats have one or more patches of white fur but most of them are uniformly colored.
- Wombats in the coastal regions of Tasmania are likely to display grey coat whereas in the eastern range of Victoria the color is grizzled brown.
- Wombat’s coat’s hairs are of different colors for e.g. a brown wombat displays brown, gold, or black-colored hair. Brown is the dominant color in coat’s hair.
- The bare-nosed wombats have long unequal hairs with a diameter of 200 microns. It is almost twice the diameter of human’s hair. The hairs on the flank and shoulder are 6 centimeters long.
- Northern hairy-nosed species have relatively soft fur which is 100 microns in width. These hairs are grayish brown but few species show sandy brown hairs. The length of most of the hairs is 3.5 centimeters.
- The southern hairy-nosed wombat has a silky fur of about 125 microns wide. The hair color is mostly light to dark grey with the length of 4.5 centimeters.
- There is a small colony of ash-white wombats living in the Wilson’s Promontory (Southern Victoria). Their face has pale yellow markings and possesses dark eyes.
- Wombats have thick coat on their rump and back.
- Wombats are found in large numbers in South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, and they also occur in southeastern Australia.
- The southern hairy-nosed marsupial has dispersed populations in Western Australia.
- The northern hairy-nosed wombat occurs to the north of the tropic of Capricorn.
- The hairy-nosed wombats fancy making home in a variety of habitats including shrublands, grasslands, woodlands, and other habitats in arid regions. Most of them exist in the Nullarbor Plain.
- The common wombat usually survives in the woodlands and forests of areas receiving heavy rainfall.
- The southern hairy-nosed wombats are likely to be found in the Eyre Peninsula, Nullarbor Plain, Gawler Ranges, and Murraylands. Some of them also occur in the Yorke Peninsula.
- The bare-nosed wombat has become almost entirely disappeared from the western part of Victoria. At present it is only found in the isolated population in Bass Strait Islands but is disappeared in many parts of New South Wales.
- The population is also threatened in the South Australia.
- Wombats dig burrows by taking out the soil with their powerful forepaws. Their burrows can be very long.
- These burrows can be as long as 98 ft (30 m) and it consists of more than one entrances.
- These tunnels are wide so much so that a medium-sized human can easily fit into it.
- Generally wombats feed alone but southern hairy-nosed wombat often eats in warrens (groups). Each warren may consist of 12 wombats and they share each other’s burrows. That is not to say that they stay in the same section inside the tunnel. Wombats occupy different sections in the tunnel.
- Wombats are able to run as fast as 40 km/h (25 mph) and can retain this much speed for more than a minute.
- The hairy-nosed wombats fancy living in dry habitats as they have so adapted many years ago.
- The bare-nosed wombats are known to survive in cooler forests of the south-east.
- While wombats are likely to be compared with badgers, beavers, pigs, and bears there is no relationship that exists between wombats and these animals.
- Wombat makes burrows and these burrows occupy an area of 2.5 square meters but it can be as large as eight square meters. The medium-sized burrows are at a distance of 0.5 – 5.0 meters from the entrance. They make tunnels on slopes as well as on flat ground. These tunnels can be in a straight direction or it can twist abruptly.
- Some of the hollows are one meter in length and the width of about 0.5 meters. Sometimes they have a rise and fall thereby forming humps.
- Wombats use bedding material inside burrows and it includes eucalypt leaves and twigs, strips of bark, bracken fronds, tiny tussocks of Poa grass. They also take stems from the fern (Blechnum cartilagineum) as it grows near the burrow.
- Wombats make burrows in a variety of habitats such as creek beds, lower banks of creek, swamps and rivers, hollows, and on flat ground. All these habitats remain vulnerable to flooding and are going to be abandoned before it reaches a length of one meter. Wombats seldom use these burrows but in emergency.
- Several wombats work together to make a longer (15 meter) burrow but sometimes a single wombat is able to construct a major burrow in a short time. A single wombat is known to make a 6-meter long burrow in less than a week. It digs about two meters each night and the animal works for an hour at a time.
- Southern hairy-nosed wombats typically make extremely large burrows that are about 1.5 to 61.2 meters long. The burrows have one or two entrances. The wombat digs continuously for about 20 minutes after which it takes short rest on a ramp.
Feeding Ecology and Diet
- Wombats are expert grazers. Their teeth continue to grow as the old ones worn out. This happens mainly because they feed on abrasive grasses.
- They have massive jaws and powerful chewing strokes that crush the food into small foodstuff.
- They have a large Gut capacity. They hold food in the gut for as long as 70 hours.
- Wombats are known to consume at night and in the daytime they rest deep inside the burrows.
- These burrows not only prevent them from extreme temperatures but also give them shelter from potential predators like dingoes.
- They have low metabolic rate.
- They mostly feed on green herbage such as sedges, roots, grasses, herbs, and barks.
- Wombats have a relatively small home range of only 49 acres (20 ha).
- The female litters only one young after a 22-day gestation period.
- The young remain in the pouch for about six to nine months and continues to stay with his mother for at least a year.
- It is hard to find a difference between male and a female. According to a study, females seem to be larger than males but it is not reasonable to generalize it because there is too much variation in size and weight.
- The pouch is completely hairless from the inside and it has a pink skin. The powerful muscle controls the opening and closing of pouch and thus it prevents any dirt to get in while the animal is digging.
- Although the home ranges of hairy-nosed and common wombats are relatively contracted since the European settlement yet they are secured.
- The northern hairy-nosed wombat is a rare species. It had become extinct in the beginning of the twentieth century.
- Epping Forest National in Queensland protects the remaining population of wombats.
- Under the Queensland State Legislation, wombats are listed as endangered species.
CSIRO Publishing, Barbara Triggs. Wombats second edition; Collingwood VIC 3066, Australian Natural History Series.
©2001 Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World vol. 12, editor Anne Hildyard.