Wombat pouches

24 July, 2011

A Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) with its young.
A Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) with its young.
Image: Gary Lewis
Source: Copyright Cheryl Lewis

Question: With all the digging wombats do, why don’t their pouches fill with dirt?

Answer: Wombats, like many other marsupials, carry their babies around in pouches. The problem with wombats, however, is that they do a lot of digging.

You would think that all this dirt would collect in their pouches and that baby wombats would constantly have dirt in their eyes and whiskers. But this doesn’t happen, because wombats wear their pouches backwards.

A rear-facing pouch is not only better for keeping the inside dirt-free, it also protects the baby from being poked with sticks and roots. Wombats have short legs and therefore very little clearance. They are often fondly referred to as the bulldozers of the bush:  a baby wombat in a rear-facing pouch is well protected from whatever its mum may "bulldoze" over.

Wombats are not the only marsupials with rear-facing pouches. Bandicoots, bilbies and Tasmanian Devils also do a lot of digging and they too protect their babies in pouches that open at the rear. Funnily enough, koalas also have rear-facing pouches. Luckily, female koalas have very tight muscles around their pouch openings.

Comments (4)

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Dan 10 August, 2011 09:50
what do you mean, they ware there pouch backwards?
Discovery Centre 10 August, 2011 11:57
Hi Dan - it means just the pouches of wombats are 'upside down' compared with other marsupials like kangaroos, or  in other words the opening of the pouch faces towards the rear of the animal - in kangaroos, for example, the pouch opens anteriorally, or at the 'head end', wheras on koalas and wombats the pouch is open posteriorally, or at the 'bottom end'.
John 19 April, 2016 09:19
Just checking on your statement that all marsupials carry their young in pouches - what about dasyurids which develop a depression? are there other marsupials which do not have pouches? many thanks.
Discovery Centre 19 April, 2016 10:35

Hi John,

Thank you for your feedback, you are right in saying that not all marsupials have pouches, we have made a correction to the article. Thank you for keeping us on our toes!

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A wombat burrow Detail of the wombat diorama at Melbourne Museum's previous location at 328 Swanston Street (June 1997).

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