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The Distinctive Biology and Characteristics of the Bare-Nosed Wombat (Vombatus ursinus).

The bare-nosed wombat is an iconic Australian fauna with remarkable biological characteristics and mythology. This solitary, muscular, fossorial, herbivorous marsupial from southeast Australia has continent and continental island subspeciation. Vombatiformes also contains hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus spp.); koala (Phascolarctos cinereus); and extinct megafauna, Phascolonus gigas (giant wombat), Diprotodon, and Thylacoleo (marsupial lion). Culturally important to Aboriginal people, bare-nosed wombats engineer ecosystems through digging, grazing, and defecation. Olfaction and cubic fecal aggregations appear critical for communication, including identity, courtship, and mating. Though among the largest fossorial herbivores, they have a nutrient-poor diet, a home range up to an order of magnitude smaller than expected, and a metabolism among the lowest extreme for mammals >10 kg. Metabolic depression may confer advantages over resource competitors and fossorial lifestyle protection from predators, fires, and climatic extremes. Bare-nosed wombats are loved and persecuted by European colonists. Recent population increases may reflect softening attitudes toward, and greater protections of, bare-nosed wombats. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, Volume 12 is February 2024. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.