Bare-nosed or Common Wombat
GENUS AND SPECIES: Vombatus ursinus
The Bare-nosed wombat was, until recently, generally refered to as the Common wombat. It is also known as the Coarse haired wombat, the Naked nosed wombat, the Forest wombat, the Island wombat, and the Tasmanian wombat. Its nickname is "The bulldozer of the bush"
All Bare-nosed or Common wombats are generally considered a single species, Vombatus ursinus; however, they are sometimes classified as separate species or subspecies depending on where they live.
The Australian mainland species is sometimes classified as a separate species, Vombatus hirsutus, but is more commonly classified as a subspecies, Vombatus ursinus hirsutus.
The Bare-nosed or Common wombats that live in Tasmania and on Flinders Island in Bass Strait are slightly smaller than the mainland wombats and are often considered two separate subspecies. The wombats from Flinders Island are the smallest and are called Vombatus ursinus ursinus. The Tasmania wombats are called Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis.
The Bare-nosed or Common wombat is the most widespread. They were once found throughout southeast Australia, but their range is now restricted to the coastal regions of southeast Australia, including: the southeast tip of Queensland, the eastern region of New South Wales, the eastern half and southern areas of Victoria, and the southeastern tip of South Australia. Their population is much less than it used to be.
Bare-nosed wombats are widespread in Tasmania, especially in the Northeast. They also occur on Flinders Island, which is located between Australia and Tasmania. Bare-nosed wombats used to be native to all the islands of the Bass Strait (the waters between Australia and Tasmania), but now are restricted to Flinders Island.
The Bare-nosed wombat lives in the temperate regions of southeast Australia and Tasmania. Habitat includes woodlands, shrub-lands, heath, coastal regions, and hilly and mountainous regions. They seem to prefer wetter, forested, rocky regions that are cooler. They also prefer sloping ground for proper burrow drainage.
The length of the average Bare-nosed wombat, including its head and body, probably ranges from about 90 to 115 cm (35 to 45 inches). The maximum reported range is from 67 to 130 cm (26 to 51 inches). The small tail is 2.5 cm (1 inch), and their height when on all fours is 36 cm (14 inches). The average adult weighs from 22 to 39 kg (48 to 86 pounds), though some reports give a low of 15 kg (33 pounds) and a high of over 45 kg (100 pounds). Males tend to be slightly larger and heavier than females.
According to one source, the average Bare-nosed wombat is approximately 1 meter (39 inches) and 27 kg (60 pounds). Another source says the average weight is about 23 kg (50 pounds). The Tasmania Bare-nosed wombats are not quite as large or heavy, the average being 85 cm (33 inches) and 20 kg (44 pounds), and the maximum being about 25 kg (55 pounds). The Flinders Island Bare-nosed wombats average about 75 cm (30 inches).
The Bare-nosed wombat's head is more rounded than that of the Hairy-nosed wombat. The Bare-nosed wombat has a large bare nose which is shiny black with granular skin, much like that of a dog. The ears are relatively small, triangular, and slightly rounded.
The Bare-nosed wombat's fur is coarse and thick, bristle-like, with little or no underfur. To the touch, it feels like horse hair. Longer than the Hairy-nosed wombat's fur, it is better adapted to the Bare-nosed wombat's colder, wetter, forest habitat. Coloration ranges from yellowish or sandy, to brown or black, to grey. The fur can sometimes be streaked or flecked, and the belly and throat areas are usually lighter in color. Their true color, however, is often masked by the color of the dirt in which they've been digging.
Bare-nosed wombats are considered solitary except during the breeding season, but there have been reports that they visit each other's burrows on occasion. Some reports say that Bare-nosed wombats may also form colonies.
The wombat has the distinction of being the world's largest burrowing animal. It is the second largest marsupial; only certain kangaroo species are larger.
The wombat is most often described as resembling a small bear, but it has also been compared to a badger, a groundhog (woodchuck), and a marmot. In earlier times, when Australia was first being settled by Europeans, the wombat was often called a badger because of its resemblance to the European badger.
Whatever they're compared to, wombats are extremely strong and muscular. They're stocky animals with a barrel-shaped body, thick and heavy. They have a short, muscular neck, and a large, broad, flattened head. They have small eyes, and a face sometimes described as rodent-like. While their eyesight is poor, they have a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing. They are also able to detect slight ground vibrations.
Wombats are quadrupeds. All four limbs are short and powerful, the forelegs being the strongest. They also have powerful shoulders which helps them dig. The hind legs are longer than the front; this can best be seen by examining a wombat's skeleton. Both the front paws and the rear feet are wide and each have five digits. All digits are armed with broad claws except the first (inner) toe which is shorter than the others. The claws are long, strong, and well-designed for digging. The Wombat walks on the soles of its feet which have thick pads.
A Bare-nosed wombat's front paws are quite dexterous and they can use them like hands. The wombat will often use its front paws to grasp vegetation, rip it from the ground, and feed it to its mouth. A Hairy nosed wombat cannot make a fist with its hand, however, and so cannot pick things up like the Bare-nosed wombat can. Because of this difference, a Bare-nosed wombat can climb, while a Hairy nosed wombat cannot.
The wombat's back is rounded and slopes downward. It's covered with very thick, tough skin which is hard as a board and protects the wombat from injury or attack. The wombat has a small, vestigial tail which is almost entirely concealed by its fur. Variations in size and color depend largely on where the wombats live.
The pouch on the female wombat opens to the rear. This not only prevents it from filling with dirt and debris when the mother digs, it also provides greater protection to the young when the mother walks or runs as wombats have minimal ground clearance. There are two mammary glands inside the pouch.
Koalas, bandicoots, and Tasmanian devils also have rearward facing pouches. Bandicoots and Tasmanian devils are burrowers like the wombat, but the koala is arboreal and spends most of its time in eucalyptus trees.
Wombats have the most developed brain of any marsupial and it is larger than what would be expected for their body mass. The wombat's brain entirely fills its skull, unlike the koala, and has many surface convolutions indicating a high level of intelligence. Their skull is relatively large for the size of their body.
There are two or three species of Hairy nosed wombats, depending on how they're classified. There are only two living species, the Southern Hairy nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons), and the Northern Hairy nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii).
There seems to be some dispute as to whether the average Hairy-nosed wombat is smaller or larger than the average Common or Bare-nosed wombat. Northern hairy nosed wombats tend to be larger than Southern hairy nosed wombats. When full-grown, head and body length is 75 to 102 cm (29 to 40 inches), with a tail of 2.5 to 6 cm (1 to 2.4 inches). Weight ranges from 18 to 40 kg (40 to 88 pounds).
As might be expected, the Hairy-nosed wombat's nose is hairy--covered with fur. This fur is soft and short, usually white or brown. The nose itself is soft and somewhat like a pig's. The fur that covers the wombat's body is fine and silky, softer than the Bare-nosed wombat's, and has a well-developed underfur.
Coloration is silver-grey, black, or brown. The brown can vary from very dark to very light, and possible even white on occasion. The color variations of the Northern hairy-nosed wombat seems to be wider than that of its Southern cousin. The fur often has light or dark patches or is streaked. The neck and underbelly are usually white or grey. Like the Bare-nosed wombat, the Hairy-nosed wombat's true color is often masked by the color of the dirt in which they've been digging.
The Hairy nosed wombat's head is more angular, and nose much broader, than the Bare-nosed wombat's. The Hairy nosed wombat's ears are larger, longer, and more pointed. Additionally, the back is not as sloped as a Bare-nosed wombat.
The upper lip of a Hairy-nosed wombat is cleft which allows them to eat vegetation very close to the ground.
Unlike most mammals, it's the young female who leaves the area where they were born, while the males remain.
Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat
GENUS AND SPECIES: Lasiorhinus latifrons
The Southern hairy nosed wombat is also called the Soft furred wombat, the Plains wombat, the Long eared wombat, the Broad nosed wombat, and the Hairy nosed southern wombat. Nickname: Bulldozer of the bush
All Southern hairy-nosed wombats belong to a single species, Lasiorhinus latifrons.
The southernmost area of central Australia, including: the southern coastal region of South Australia, and the southeast corner of Western Australia. The Southern hairy nosed wombat's range once included the southwestern portion of Queensland, but it is now extinct there. Within its range, populations of the Southern hairy-nosed wombat are fragmented.
The Southern hairy nosed wombat lives in arid and semi-arid inland regions including grass plains, savannahs, open woodlands, and steppe with low shrubs, as well as sandy or limestone coastal regions. Annual rainfall in these areas is about 200-500 mm (8-20 inches).
The Southern hairy-nosed wombat grows to a length of 75 to 100 cm (30 to 40 inches). It has a height of 25 to 35 cm (10 to 14 inches), and has a tail of 2.5 to 6 cm (1 to 2.4 inches). Its full-grown weight ranges from 18 to 32 kg (40 to 68 pounds).
The Southern hairy nosed wombat is quite similar to the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat, but is somewhat smaller overall. It also has a narrower muzzle, and tends to have lighter patches above and below its eyes.
Southern hairy-nosed wombats live in complex tunnel systems with several entrances. The tunnels are often excavated under limestone formations. From 5 to 10 wombats live in each tunnel system, with an equal number of males and females.
Some reports say the Southern hairy nosed wombat is common, while others say it is not. It is currently listed as an endangered species.
Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat
GENUS AND SPECIES: Lasiorhinus krefftii
The Northern hairy nosed wombat is also called the Queensland hairy nosed wombat, the Queensland wombat, the Soft furred wombat, the Broad nosed wombat, Yaminon, the Moonie River wombat, Barnard's hairy nosed wombat, and the Hairy nosed northern wombat. Nickname: Bulldozer of the bush
While there is currently only a single living species of Northern hairy-nosed wombats, an extinct population existed in southeast Queensland along the Moonie River near St. George until about 1908. This population was sometimes classified as a separate species, Lasiorhinus Gillespiei. Another population once existed in Deniliquin, NSW until the late 1800's.
Their range used to include northern Victoria, New South Wales, and about a quarter of Queensland. There now exists only a single remaining population of the Northern hairy-nosed wombat. Its range is restricted to about 300 ha (750 acres) of the Epping Forest in east-central Queensland, 120 km northwest of Clermont. While this area has been protected as a National Park, the native grasses that the Northern hairy nosed wombat eats are being overtaken by non-indigenous grasses such as buffel grass.
Their habitat is flat, semi-arid grasslands or woodlands. They live in a harsh, hot climate which experiences frequent droughts, up to 6 years in duration. Average rainfall in their Epping Forest range is 575 mm. The Northern hairy-nosed wombat prefers deep sandy soils in which to dig their burrows.
Since the Northern hairy nosed wombat is very rare, not as much is known about it as the other types of wombats. The head and body of a full-sized adult is about 100 cm (40 inches), with a tail of 50 cm (2 inches). They can weigh from 25 to 40 kg (55 to 88 pounds), with the females being the heaviest. It is somewhat larger than its Southern cousin, and some reports say it's even larger than the Bare-nosed wombat.
The Northern hairy nosed wombat is similar to the Southern hairy nosed wombat, but has a wider, flattened, longer muzzle. They also tend to have dark patches around their eyes.
The Northern hairy-nosed wombat is the rarest Australian marsupial, and probably the world's rarest large mammal. There were as few as 20 individuals left in 1981. Because of conservation efforts, that had risen to approximately 70 by 1989. In the latest population study, there are an estimated 113 (range 96 to 150) individuals. There are only approximately 35 females, however, with about 25 of breeding age.
They feed for about 6 hours per night in the dry winter season, and 2 hours per night in the wet summer season. The feeding area of an individual wombat is about 6 ha (15 acres) in the dry season. In the wet season their feeding range is about 3 ha (7.5 acres). Another report says their feeding range is about 27 ha (65 acres). The feeding ranges of males and females may overlap, but the feeding ranges of females are usually independent of each other.
Northern hairy-nosed wombats will sometimes share burrows with same-sex relatives. In a recent study, they shared a burrow 27% of the time. Burrows are solitary or in groups, and usually under trees.
In Epping forest, there are 208 known burrows, with 179 of them actively being used by wombats.
Their preferred feeding grounds are river banks and grassy creeks. They will rarely drink, usually getting their required moisture from their diet.
The Northern hairy-nosed wombat is extremely rare and is classified as critically endangered. Since there is only a single colony of Northern hairy-nosed wombats left in the world, they are very vulnerable to disease, inbreeding, fire, and natural disasters.