The Koala is a distinguished member of a group of marsupials (pouched mammals). They hang around the forests in eastern Australia and are often regarded as one of the most iconic and fascinating animals in existence.
While koalas are very popular, there are some incredible facts you may not know about them. Below are some of them.
1. The Term “Koala bear” is a Misnomer
Like we mentioned before, koalas are some of the most popular animals in the world today. However, we found that many people refer to them as “koala bears” presumably because they have round ears, furs, and a stand-out black nose.
However that’s a misnomer- koalas are not bears, rather they are marsupials. Marsupials are mammals whose offspring are born undeveloped and are left to grow in a pouch in the mother’s belly. So, given the fact that they are marsupials, they are more related to kangaroos and wombats than they are to bears.
2. Koalas Spend Up To 20 hours Sleeping
To put that in perspective, there are only 24 hours in a day, meaning koalas can sleep for about ¾ of that. There was a widely-circulated rumor that they sleep so much because they got high off eucalyptus leaves which is their main diet.
However, while it sounds plausible, this rumor has been confirmed false. The reason they sleep so much is because they are naturally lazy and the eucalyptus leaves they feed on lack enough nutrients. So, they sleep for that long, to conserve some energy.
3. Koalas Have Different Home Ranges
Contrary to popular belief, koalas are not exactly solitary because they often stay within intersectional home ranges. The home ranges have different sizes for each koala depending on their age, gender, and social position among other factors. The big, intimidating males often have the largest home ranges with little to zero risk of trespassing.
Female koalas often stay around the same home ranges they were born instead of forging a new home for themselves. On the other hand, males usually travel far off.
4. Koalas Are Born Without Hair, Ears, And Functional Sight
Like we said before, koalas are marsupials which means they give birth to premature babies who then grow in a pouch. Infant koalas are known as “joeys” and they are born without ears, hair, and with a non-functional sight and an infinitesimal size.
Once they are born, natural instincts kick in and the joeys get into the mother’s pouch and remain there for about six months drinking just milk. Before they can eat gum leaves, joeys feed on some droppings from the mother called “pap” which gives them the required microorganisms to survive the digestion of gum leaves.
5. Koalas Don’t Drink Much
Koalas don’t drink nearly as much water as most other animals. Not because there isn’t any water around but because the gum leaves have enough moisture to satisfy them. They only drink during periods of drought when the leaves are ridden from the usual level of moisture.
To add to that, adult koalas eat between 1.1 pounds to 2.2 pounds of leaves every night.
6. Koala Poo is the Only Food Source For a Moth Species
The scatochresis episema is a moth species with caterpillars and these caterpillars live off koala droppings until they become adults. Interestingly, they cannot survive on any food source other than that. How fascinating!
7. Koalas Have Unique Fingerprints
One of the most interesting things about human beings is how we all have unique fingerprints; all 7 billion+ of us. And here’s a fact for you: koalas are exactly like that. They have fingerprints unique to each and every one of them.
Much like human beings, they also have thumbs except they have two thumbs and three fingers on each hand.
8. “Koala” Originates From An Aboriginal Word
Ever wondered where the word “koala” came from? The pronunciation of the word itself sounds to some people like it’s from a native language. And indeed it is! The name “Koala” comes from a Darug word (an aboriginal language) that means “no water.”
We bet your reaction to that information was “Hmm, that makes sense,”,considering we mentioned earlier that they don’t take much water. Their source of hydration is the moisture from their diet of eucalyptus leaves.
9. 80% Of Koala Habitats Are Gone
Thanks to Australia’s insane land clearing rates, experts estimate that 80% of koalas’ habitats have been destroyed. Interestingly, koalas themselves are protected by law but about eighty percent of the other remaining habitats are on private lands, putting them at further risk.
According to the Australian Koala Foundation, owing to the huge habitat loss, about 4,000 koalas are killed every year by dogs and moving cars.
10. Koalas Are Very Fussy Eaters
As mentioned several times before, koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves. However, while this is their major and preferred diet, koalas express some fussiness before settling on the perfect meal.
Here is what we mean- There are close to 900 species of eucalyptus leaves and koalas only eat about 100 of them. In some areas, koalas stick with as low as one to three species while using the rest for sitting or sleeping.
And since different species are grown in different parts of Australia, a koala in one part would likely have a different eucalyptus leaf diet from a koala in another part. They are very keen on eating the right and preferred species and they can do this since they spend all their time around the trees.
Below are some bonus facts:
- Koalas have specially padded buttocks which help them to sleep comfortably anywhere
- Koalas can sense when the eucalyptus leaves become toxic and unsafe to eat.
- There are less than 80,000 koalas left in Australia according to the Australia Koala Foundation.
- Government officials in Australia have declared koalas an endangered species.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Yatra/Shutterstock.com
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