Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat
GENUS AND SPECIES: Lasiorhinus latifrons
The Southern hairy-nosed wombat (wombat photographs on this page courtesy of Wendy Morphett, used with permission)
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.
Map of Southern hairy-nosed wombat distribution
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.
The Southern hairy nosed wombat’s head is more angular than that of the Bare-nosed wombat
Centered around their warrens, the home range of the Southern Hairy-nosed wombat is about 2.5 to 4 hectares (6 to 10 acres), the size of which depends on the quality of their grazing area.
Their population density is similar to the other wombats, and can reach about 0.2 per hectare (0.1 per acre).
Southern hairy-nosed wombats are easier to keep in captivity than Bare-nosed wombats as they are more docile.
Some reports say the Southern hairy nosed wombat is common, while others say it is not. It is currently listed as an endangered species.
The Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat
Australia is home to three species of wombat, and in this episode we head to South Australia to talk about the Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat
The southern hairy nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) is one of three extant species of wombats. It is found in scattered areas of semiarid scrub and mallee from the eastern Nullarbor Plain to the New South Wales border area. It is the smallest of all three wombat species. The young often do not survive dry seasons. It is the state animal of South Australia.
The southern hairy nosed wombat is adapted to digging; it has a stocky and robust build, flattened claws, and five digits. The body length ranges from 772 to 934 mm (30.4 to 36.8 in) with a body mass ranging from 19 to 32 kg (42 to 71 lb).Its short tail is hidden by its fur. The pelage is silky and is typically greyish or tan in colour. The wombat grooms itself with its second and third toes, which are fused together, except at the tips.The head is robust and flattened and the ears are pointed.The snout resembles that of a pig.The animal gets its name from the hairs that cover its rhinarium.The wombat’s incisors resemble those of rodents, and its molars are widely spaced by the palate. The teeth keep growing for the entirety of the animal’s life, which is likely an adaptation to its harsh diet
Southern hairy nosed wombats, along with other wombat species, select native perennial grasses and sedges, but do consume introduced pasture species, forbs, and the leaves of woody shrubs if their favoured food is not available. Much of the southern hairy nosed wombat’s diet is Austrostipa nitida, which grows around its warren complex and is trimmed as it grazes. This creates an area with a higher density of new green shoots, a sign of delayed growth of individual grass The teeth of the wombat are more effective in grinding food into small particles than the western grey kangaroo Its digestive tract has a tiny caecum and a colon divided into parts. The anterior part is relatively small and serves as the site for fermentation, while the posterior part is larger and is where water is reabsorbed. The wombat conserves water by recycling more urea to the colon rather than releasing it as urine. Wombats release less than other herbivorous mammals. As such, the southern hairynosed wombat produces very dry faeces, with water contents as low as 40%.
The harsh environment in which the southern hairy nosed wombat lives is further reflected in its energetics. In captivity, their standard metabolic rate was found to be 130 kl/kg^0.75 per day, which is very low compared to most placental animals and other marsupials. They also have the lowest thyroid hormone levels among mammals. The food wombats eat provides more than enough energy. As long as enough food is available, the forage consumed by the wombat can support it during late lactation. It is more effective than a donkey at maintaining its weight on lowquality food.
Southern hairy nosed wombats dig and live in burrows which they connect into warrens with many entrances. These warrens are their prime refuges and are shared by up to 10 individuals. A wombat digs with its fore claws while sitting up. It leaves its new burrow backwards and pushes out soil with all its paws. The central warren is surrounded by a circle of small, simple burrows 100–150 m from it. The small burrows along the outer edges is where young wombats go when they are displaced from the central warren. Wombats may favour a certain burrow and not share it with others. However, there is no monopolization of burrows. Wombats move between burrows and even warrens. Male wombats are territorial towards wombats from other warrens, possibly to defend food resources and the warren refuges. Trails of droppings connect the burrows. The males also mark their territory with anal scent secretions by rubbing their backs and rumps on objects. Fights between males over territories or mates do occur and involve bites to the ears, flanks, or rumps. Also, a dominance hierarchy exists among males.
Wombats sleeping in a tunnel at Melbourne Zoo.
The burrows of a southern hairynosed wombat can have air temperatures around of 14 °C in midwinter to 26 °C in midsummer, the wombat’s preferred thermoneutral zone, while the ambient temperatures outside range from down to around 2 °C in Winter and up to 36 °C or above during Summer. Warrens can make surface conditions in habitats of low humidity and high temperatures better for the wombat. A wombat retires deep in the burrow after foraging. The next night, the wombat moves to the entrance to check if conditions are right before emerging again. In the evening, wombats leave their burrows as the ambient temperature and burrow temperature are the same. In the early morning, when the surface temperature is lower, they retire.