Wombats are native to the Australian biogeographic region. Coarse-haired wombats are found along the eastern edge of Queensland and New South Whales, in addition to Victoria, Flinder's Island, Tasmania, and parts of South Australia. ("Vombatus ursinus", 2011; Paris, et al., 2002)
Coarse-haired wombats inhabit temperate areas with suitable burrowing conditions, which may include areas such as open forests, heathlands, and hilly coastal scrub. ("Common Wombat", 2009; "Vombatus ursinus", 2011; Menkhorst and Knight, 2011)
Coarse-haired wombats are large, squat, thick-set grazers with a broad, rounded head, stubby tail, small dark eyes, and small round ears. Its limbs are short with sturdy claws for burrowing. Wombats have a pair of rootless, ever-growing incisors differs them from marsupials and can be used for cutting through obstacles when burrowing. Its fur is thick and coarse and can range in color from grey-brown to blackish, patchy grey and buff, or uniformly cream colored. Unlike the two other species of wombat, this species lacks hair on its rhinarium, and the ears are smaller and more furred than that of its close relatives. The northern and southern hairy nosed wombats tend toward longer muzzles that are more square-like in shape. Populations of coarse-haired wombats that inhabit Tasmania tend to have smaller members than the mainland, and Flinders Island populations have the smallest members. ("Common Wombat", 2009; Menkhorst and Knight, 2011)
Coarse-haired wombats reproductive behavior consists of a male chasing the female in circles for several minutes at a time until the female slows down enough for him to catch up. At this point he bites her rump, grasps her with his forelegs, and flips her onto her side. The male then mounts her while laying on his side; after which the female may break off into a jog, and the chasing behavior ensues again. These sessions may last about 30 minutes. Not much is known about wombat mating systems, but there is some evidence to suggest that they are polygynous. (Banks, et al., 2002; Barnes, 2005; Jackson, 2003)
Coarse-haired wombats typically breed and produce one offspring about every two years. Their breeding doesn't seem to be tied to any particular season, though births may be clustered in summer. Gestation lasts approximately one month, producing a tiny joey about the size of a jelly bean. This joey grows in the pouch until it is weaned at approximately 12 months of age. Both male and female wombats are sexually mature after about 2 years. ("Common Wombat", 2009; Paris, et al., 2002; Skerratt, et al., 2004; de Magalhaes and Costa, 2009)
After birth, the wombat joey will live in its mother's pouch for about 6 months, feeding off the mothers milk until about 15 months of age. The wombat will remain with its mother until about 18 to 20 months of age, until it gains its independence. ("Common Wombat", 2009; Menkhorst and Knight, 2011; Paris, et al., 2002)
There are few studies describing wombat longevity; however, the longest a wombat lived in captivity was approximately 30 years. They typically only live 12 to 15 years. (Barnes, 2005; de Magalhaes and Costa, 2009)
Wombats are mainly nocturnal and crepuscular, emerging from their burrows at dusk to graze in the cooler night temperatures. However during colder seasons they may be seen sunbathing in the day. When foraging, coarse-haired wombats might travel several kilometers in search of food, often visiting the same sites repeatedly, creating short patches of grass known as "marsupial lawns." Wombats are solitary, but their home ranges tend to overlap. Multiple wombats might use the same burrow, but rarely at the same time. When burrowing, they remove dirt in front of them using the claws, then "bulldoze" the dirt backwards using their rump. They use a similar tactic for dealing with predators in their burrow, backing up at the attacker and using their strong back legs to crush their head against the roof of the burrow. Wombats may have multiple resting chambers, in which they build nests out of grass, leaves and sticks. To conserve energy, they may spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping in these chambers. (Favreau, et al., 2009; Jackson, 2003)
The home range of the common wombat ranges from 0.024 to 0.083 square kilometers in size, and often contains multiple burrows. (Skerratt, et al., 2004)
The common wombat communicates to conspecifics in a number of ways, mainly through scent marking to maintain territories. Other forms of communication include vocalizations, aggresive displays, and markings on logs and branches made by rubbing against them repeatedly. ("Vombatus ursinus", 2011)
The combination of low metabolic activity and a large digestive tract allows wombats to utilize areas where the vegetation may be of poor quality. The common wombat is a folivore, with a diet that consists of native grasses, sedges, moss, and sometimes shrubs, roots, tubers, and bark. The small, acidic stomach and simple small intestine of wombats digests plant cell material, while the hind gut houses microbial fermentation, with which wombats digest the fibrous cell walls of plants. The hind gut consists of a proximal colon (which makes up roughly 60 to 80% of gut contents), a cecum, and the distal colon. Some of the plant species in the wombat diet include Poa, Themeda australis, Carex appressa, Juncas, Stipa, and Danthonia penicillata. ("Common Wombat", 2009; "Digestive Strategies of the Wombats: Feed Intake, Fiber Digestion, and Digesta Passage in Two Grazing Marsupials with Hindgut Fermentation", 1993; Barnes, 2005; Menkhorst and Knight, 2011; Skerratt, et al., 2004)
Predators of the common wombat include Tasmanian devils, dogs, wedge-tailed eagles, and humans. Prior to their extinction, Tasmanian wolves probably preyed on the wombats, as well. The combination of low metabolic rate and efficient digestion allows wombats to spend much of their time in their burrows away from predators, though wombats likely have these traits to exploit a diet of poor-quality vegetation and not to avoid predation. Wombats sometimes build dirt plugs to close off their tunnels, which may be a defensive behavior. ("Digestive Strategies of the Wombats: Feed Intake, Fiber Digestion, and Digesta Passage in Two Grazing Marsupials with Hindgut Fermentation", 1993; Favreau, et al., 2009; Jackson, 2003)
Wombats often live in riparian environments, due to their preference to build burrows above creeks and streams. Due to their grazing and soil-displacing habits, wombats may help to provide different microsites that influence vegetative growth patterns in these environments. (Borchard and Eldridge, 2011; Jackson, 2003)
Wombats were hunted for their pelts; now they are protected and it is illegal. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2011)
Wombats are sometimes seen as pests in areas of farming due to their burrowing behavior creating hazards for livestock. Also, wombats sometimes burrow under rabbit fences, allowing rabbits an escape path. ("Common Wombat", 2009; Paris, et al., 2002)
According the the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species, coarse-haired wombats are listed as least concern, and the population trends are currently stable. They are protected in all states of Australia. ("Common Wombat", 2009; "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2011)
Benjamin Galetka (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
active at dawn and dusk
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
having more than one female as a mate at one time
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
breeding takes place throughout the year
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Barnes, M. 2005. "Husbandry Manual for Common Wombat" (On-line). Accessed April 02, 2012 at http://www.fourthcrossingwildlife.com/CommonWombatHusbandryManual-MicheleBarnes.pdf.
Borchard, P., D. Eldridge. 2011. The geomorphic signature of bare-nosed wombats (Vombatusursinus) and cattle (Bos taurus) in an agricultural riparian ecosystem. Geomorphology, 130/3-4: 365-373. Accessed April 16, 2012 at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169555X11001905.
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Jarman, P., E. Murray. 2010. "Circadian Variation In Resource Quality: Leaf Water Content And Its Relevance To Eastern Grey Kangaroo Macropus Giganteus And Common Wombat Vombatus Ursinus.". Austral Ecology, 35, no. 2: 176-188.
Menkhorst, P., F. Knight. 2011. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Paris, M., A. White, A. Reiss, M. West, F. Schwarzenberger. 2002. Faecal progesterone metabolites and behavioural observations for the non-invasive assessment of oestrous cycles in the common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) and the southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons).. Animal Reproduction Science, 72, no. 3/4: 245.
Skerratt, L., J. Skerratt, S. Banks, R. Martin, K. Handasyde. 2004. Aspects of the ecology of common wombats (Vombatus ursinus) at high density on pastoral land in Victoria. Australian journal of zoology, 52/3: 303-330.
de Magalhaes, J., J. Costa. 2009. "A database of vertebrate longevity records and their relation to other life-history traits" (On-line). Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Vombatus_ursinus.