wombat

wombat, shy marsupial of Australia and Tasmania, related to the koala. The wombat is a thick-set animal with a large head, short legs (giving it a shuffling gait), and a very short tail. It is about 3 ft (91.5 cm) long. Its snout is either naked, as in the species Vombatus ursinus, or furred, as in Lasiorhinus latifrons. Its incisors, the only teeth, grow continually, like those of rodents. Wombats are native to savanna forests and grasslands. They are solitary, nocturnal animals that feed chiefly on grass, roots, and bark and have been known to gnaw down large trees. They are powerful burrowers, digging tunnels by lying on their sides and pushing out soil with their feet. Their burrows, which may be 100 ft (31.5 m) long, terminate in grassy nests. A single infant is carried by its mother in a marsupial pouch for a period of 6 to 12 months. Extinct wombats as large as hippopotamuses are known from fossil evidence. Wombats are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Marsupialia, family Vombatidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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