Wombats are unique among the animal kingdom for their ability to produce cubic feces approximately the size and shape of dice. Researchers found that wombats accomplish this geometric feat thanks to the structure of their intestines, which have bands of differing stiffness that run the full length of their guts. When the intestines contract, the stiffer bands contract first, gradually shaping and sculpting the corners of the feces.
The results have implications both for manufacturing soft materials and for human health. One of the early effects of colon cancer is a stiffening of portions of the intestine; that means that doctors may be able to use changes in the shape of a patient’s feces as a warning sign for diagnosis. (Image and research credit: P. Yang et al.; video credit: Royal Society of Chemistry; via Gizmodo)