Koala

41402585331_397dcde741_k.jpg
26587838557_b3fae37565_k

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) from the Sanctuary at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Though slow-moving, koalas are skilled at maneuvering around in the forest canopy. They have long sharp claws and two opposable digits on the forefeet, functionally similar to the opposable thumb in humans and zygodactyly in chameleons. Koalas sleep up to 20 hours a day, conserving the little energy they get from their strictly eucalypt leaf diet. Eucalypts offer poor nutritional value and contain toxic compounds, but the koala digestive system is able to make the most out of this highly abundant food source. Koalas have poor vision but a keen sense of smell to assess leaves before consumption. Curiously their eyes have vertically slit pupils, an uncommon feature in marsupials. Like sloths in the New World, they can often be spotted lying dormant high in trees.

Sloths and koalas may seem superficially similar due to their ecological habits, but they are distantly related on the mammalian tree. Sloths are placental mammals most closely related to anteaters (order Pilosa) and koalas are close relatives of wombats (suborder Vombatiformes) — you can really see it in the face! Being marsupials, koalas have fully developed pouches for carrying young joeys for about half a year. Females lactate for up to a year with joeys clinging to their mothers’ backs, eventually transitioning into an independent arboreal lifestyle.

Koalas are currently listed as Vulnerable. Habitat loss and urbanization pose the greatest threat to wild populations, and fragmentation and stress go hand in hand with transmission of chlamydia and retroviruses.

40688601214_b83cd3fcb5_k.jpg
26531840017_ef8406da1b_k.jpg

One reply to “Koala

  1. Natural selection and adaptation create intriguing forms of life. Too bad the koala survives in such a narrow niche. Perhaps it will adapt in the future to expand it’s dietary capabilities.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
close-alt close collapse comment ellipsis expand gallery heart lock menu next pinned previous reply search share star