6 key koala facts you (probably) didn’t know

Millions of years of evolution mean that the koala is highly adapted. But specialisation, a small gene pool and diseases are all posing challenges.

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Koala and joey

1. As the young koala approaches six months, its mother begins to prepare it for its eucalyptus diet by producing a faecal pap, which has a high concentration of bacteria.

2. The koala has one of the smallest brains relative to body weight of any mammal, which may be an adaptation to its low-energy diet (brains consume a lot of energy).

3. The koala retrovirus present in many populations has been implicated in the occurrence of Koala Immune Deficiency, which leaves the animals more susceptible to various diseases.

4. With a ‘super liver’ that has evolved to deal with the toxins in eucalypt leaves, koalas can often just excrete drugs, which makes it hard to administer medication.

5. Eucalypts are low in nutrition and poisonous to most animals. They require a very slow metabolic rate and the food must be held longer within the digestive system.

6. At least 90 per cent of the koala population is infected by chlamydia. There are chlamydia-free populations in Victoria, which were reintroduced in the 1920s.

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