Due to their digging and burrowing prowess, the wombat’s marsupial pouch is actually oriented upside-down so it doesn’t get accidentally filled with earth (check out the video above to see how powerfully they dig and burrow). Though they generally have genial dispositions, their instinctual need to burrow, and their need for plenty of land to forage in means they don’t make good pets, not to mention the fact that beneath that fuzzy exterior, they are all muscle — they might measure a couple feet long at most, but they can easily knock an adult person over if they charge at them. (Who says vegans aren’t strong?) But while wombats are adorable, their unusual back end has further-reaching implications that just amusing cocktail party banter.
Photo © Christian Haugen
Biomimicry examines “nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems sustainably.” The wombat’s super durable reinforced rump is a great model for designers looking for natural alternatives to non-biodegradable plastics. A human-created ‘biomaterials shield’ based on the wombat’s defense mechanism could be a great low-energy, degradable material to make things like computer casings, hard packaging materials, luggage, disposable items like pens or lighters, or almost anything else that is currently made from hard plastics. And don’t worry, if this was made in a lab, it certainly wouldn’t look, feel (or smell!) anything like an actual wombat butt!
Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick and author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life (St. Martin’s Press). A green living expert, she contributes to The Huffington Post and Mother Nature Network (MNN.com)