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Koala

Updated on February 26, 2016

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus

Description

 The adorable Koala continues to be one of the favorite animals of people. This is why you will frequently see it as part of logos and as part of mascots for sports. We are all able to easily identify the Koala which is one of the many reasons why it is so common out there. When you advertise you definitely want to use an animal people know about.

Koalas are marsupials and they are small in size. They won’t be more than 3 feet tall or weigh more than 30 pounds. They have large faces with a long nose that draws attention to them. They have small round ears and they are covered with a very thick fur. They can have many colors on them including black, brown, white, and gray.

Anatomy

 The slow metabolism of the Koala bear has been the focus of many studies. The fact that an animal can live with a body that slow and with so little energy is remarkable. They are strong animals though so don’t underestimate them. They have very strong muscles in the upper body. This is because they need those limbs for climbing in and out of the trees. Thanks to the pads on the bottom of the hands and feet they get some help with grip.

Are they related to bears? This continues to be a common question and there is so much information going back and forth about it. Today we have the genetic make up of the Koala to base that on. This evidence tells us with 100% accuracy that they aren’t related to bears in any way.

Evolution

 
The verdict is still out when it comes to the evolution process for the Koala. It is believed that the process is one that occurred very slowly for them. Based on fossil testing it is believed that they have been around for the past 44 million years. They have been able to use their environment to their advantage.

What is really remarkable is that they are able to thrive in areas where other animals simply have not been able to. The Koala is said to be one that is easily prone to high levels of stress. It is reasonable to believe that this stress could have triggered some evolutionary changes for them over time.

Koala Video

Behavior

 If you don’t get enough sleep, you may wish you were a Koala. They can sleep for up to 18 hours a day. Once the sun goes down they will be apt to go looking for food. This can take them up to 5 hours per night to complete. They have their own tree where they live and they don’t like to share with others. They can become very aggressive if they end up feeling threatened.
Habitat and Distribution

Lots of areas around Australia are the natural homes of the Koala. Yet it is important to point out that they have lost about 80% of that environment in less than a decade. It seems that there is just too much moving against them right now for them to stand a chance. They are fighting among themselves for food and shelter.

They are also dealing with areas of the habitat that have disease. Those with the best genetics can survive but that means thousands of them will continue to be wiped out at an unbelievable speed. They do seem to do well in captivity but that certainly isn’t a solution for the ongoing destruction of their home in the wild.

Habitat and Distribution

 

Lots of areas around Australia are the natural homes of the Koala. Yet it is important to point out that they have lost about 80% of that environment in less than a decade. It seems that there is just too much moving against them right now for them to stand a chance. They are fighting among themselves for food and shelter.

 

They are also dealing with areas of the habitat that have disease. Those with the best genetics can survive but that means thousands of them will continue to be wiped out at an unbelievable speed. They do seem to do well in captivity but that certainly isn’t a solution for the ongoing destruction of their home in the wild.

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Diet and Feeding habits

 It is true that the Koala mainly feeds on the eucalyptus leaves. However, they are extremely selective. Are you aware that more than 600 species of these trees exist? Now take into consideration that they really only will eat about 50 of the species and that cuts down the amount of food they really have.

There are some other types of leaves that they will consume when they can’t get the eucalyptus. However, many of them don’t contain enough water which then means they have to burn energy to go find a source of water. How much does the Koala eat daily? It is really only about 1.5 pounds of leaves.

So why does it take this animal about 5 hours to consume so little? They chew it very slowly and make a paste from it. There is a very complex process of digestion that takes place here. This is why they can consume eucalyptus leaves that are considered to be toxic but not become ill.

Reproduction

 
The males are the ones that go after the females for mating. They are ready to mate by the time they are four years of age. The females are ready a year or so sooner. The males call out with bellows when they are ready to mate. Typically this can be from December until the following March.

The females that are receptive to the mating calls respond. Then the two of them continue to call back and forth until they meet up. The males will accept no boundaries to get to the females. This is why they often end up fighting with other males along the way. This means the stronger males with the best genetics are the ones that will end up being able to meet the females and to mate with them.

What happens next is very interesting indeed. It is only 35 days before a live birth occurs. Yet this isn’t a youngster that is ready to go. Instead, it is still a serious work in progress. Since the Koala can’t create a placenta around the embryo it has to emerge very soon. Then it moves into the pouch where it will grow and it will be able to come out approximately six months later.

Koala Video

Predators

 
Things can be grime for the Koala when it comes to predators. There are some you may have suspected as well as some unlikely culprits. On the ground the fox and some large cats are the primary worries for them. Both are very fast and very calculated so they can have that element of surprise in place.

One ground predator you may not think about though is the domestic dog. There are so many deaths of the Koala every single year due to this animal. It seems that as people continue to move to the areas where the Koala is trying to survive this will continue to be a huge type of factor for them to contend with.

In the trees they aren’t free from predators either. Some very dangerous and large species of snakes live in those same trees. They find the young Koalas to be easy enough prey for them to take down. They also have to worry about large predator birds that can come down into the trees instantly and kill them.

Humans have hunted them endlessly for a very long time. Even though that has been illegal for decades now, the damage has already been done. Even though they aren’t’ being hunted to an extreme anymore they are losing their homes. Humans continue to change the use of the land for their own needs. As a result these animals are often unable to find food or shelter. Many of them die from exposure to a variety of diseases.

Comments

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  • Audrey Baker profile image

    Audrey Baker 

    5 years ago from Arizona

    I once wrote a newsletter for an office and in one issue I included a fun fact that koalas aren't bears. People actually tried to debate about that with me!

    I found it interesting they make a paste with their leaves, I didn't know that. They certainly are cute little creatures.

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