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KOALAS!

Facts About Koalas - Fact FrenzySome people find them cute. Some people find them cuddly. But if you went looking for one, chances are you’d find it — sleeping! That’s because koalas spend 90% of their day asleep. In fact, they sleep more than sloths, lions, or any other animal that we know of.

Koalas have a very fussy diet. Their favorite food doesn’t provide very many calories or nutrition for energy, so koalas live a very sedentary life. Koalas mostly eat eucalyptus leaves, and occasionally the leaves of other gum trees they live in. The eucalypt forests of Australia are koalas’ native habitat.

Of course, many of us have said or heard the phrase, “koala bears.” This is a misnaming that happened long ago, that somehow stuck over time, long after the taxonomy corrected it. Koalas are not bears at all. The closest relative in the animal kingdom to koalas are wombats. That’s because koalas are marsupials. Marsupials are an “infraclass” of mammals that also include animals such as kangaroos and opossums. And just like kangaroos, baby koalas are called “joeys.” They spend their first 6 to 7 months in their mother’s pouch.

Male and female koalas can be distinguished by the fact that male koalas are 50% larger than female koalas, and female koalas’ noses aren’t as curved as the males’. Also, male koalas have scent glands on their chest. The scent glands are used to attract females as mates, but also to ward off male competition.

Koalas have claws that may look intimidating, but the koala’s claws are more ideal for climbing and grooming than fighting. After all, Koalas do spend most of their time in eucalyptus trees. So they need a good set of hooked, curved claws to climb up and hang out in trees all the time.

But what happens if they fall? Falling from heights is a dangerous problem for almost any mammal. One protective feature that koalas have is actually inside their head — their relatively small brains. How does this protect them? There is a lot of space inside their brain cavity that is filled with fluid. This unusually large amount of fluid compared to brain matter would help the koala to survive a fall if they took a blow to the head.

The relatively small brain size doesn’t mean the koala isn’t an intelligent creature, however. Scientists were surprised to find out how quickly koalas can learn something new. In 2016, a special road crossing was built just for koalas in Australia. Researchers found that koalas used the new, safer passage to cross dangerous roads far more quickly than they predicted. This ability to adapt and learn a new behavior quickly is a true sign of intelligence.

 


Sources:

  • Gordon, G.; Menkhorst, P.; Robinson, T.; Lunney, D.; Martin, R.; Ellis, M. (2008). “Phascolarctos cinereus“. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2013-03-08
  • Leitner, G.; Sieloff, I. (1998). “Aboriginal words and concepts in Australian English”. World Englishes.
  • Jackson, Stephen M. Australian mammals : biology and captive management. Collingwood, Vic: CSIRO, 2003.
  • Martin, Roger, K. A. Handasyde, and Sue Simpson. The koala : natural history, conservation and management. Sydney, Australia: UNSW Press, 1999.
  • SBS News. (2018). Koalas – smarter than your average bear. [online] Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/koalas-smarter-than-your-average-bear [Accessed 10 Jan. 2018]

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