Wombat feces discovery earns GVSU alum, team award

Grand Rapids
Wombats huddled together

An undated courtesy photo shows two wombats. (Grand Valley State University)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Valley State university alumna has earned the Ig Nobel prize in physics for her role in partially unraveling the mystery about why wombat feces is cube-shaped.

It turns out wombat waste gets it shape internally.

Wombat scat on ground
An undated courtesy photo shows square-shaped wombat scat. (Grand Valley State University)

GVSU graduate Alynn Martin and researcher Scott Carver made that discovery in Australia, where they were examining a wombat cadaver for disease studies. The pair found cube-shaped waste in the animal’s intestine.

They then sent wombat cadavers to a team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which helped determine that wombat feces began getting its hallmark shape in the final 8% of the intestines, thanks to varying elasticity of the intestinal wall.

Martin said the wombat’s dry diet of grasses and roots may also factor into its unusual scat formation.

Alynn Martin on top of hill
An undated courtesy photo shows researcher and GVSU alumna Alynn Martin. (Grand Valley State University)

The entire team was awarded the IG Nobel Prize, which is given “for achievements that first make people laugh then make them think,” according to the award’s website.

This year’s winners also included the inventor of a diaper-changing machine for babies and researchers who measured how much saliva a 5-year-old produces each day (about 17 ounces) and studied whether pizza can prevent illness. (Possibly, but only if it’s made and eaten in Italy.)

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links