Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A Koala's Guide To The Treetop Buffet

Date:
June 12, 2005
Source:
Australian National University
Summary:
The way that koalas in the wild distinguish between thousands of types of potentially nauseating tree leaves when eating has been revealed by Australian National University researchers.

The way that koalas in the wild distinguish between thousands of types of potentially nauseating tree leaves when eating has been revealed by Australian National University researchers.

Related Articles


In the same way that humans learn to avoid foods that make us ill, koalas also learn from experience what to eat and what to avoid, according to research published by Dr Ben Moore and Professor Bill Foley from the School of Botany and Zoology at The Australian National University in Canberra in the latest edition of Nature.

"Fortunately for bushwalkers, the koalas' learned association between nauseating toxins and the smell of certain leaves means they don't become physically sick," Dr Moore said.

The researchers mapped the content of nutrients and toxins in every tree in an area of forest on Victoria's Phillip Island.

"Although we already knew that a particularly sickening group of toxins controls how much koalas eat in captivity, koalas in the wild have many more choices and have to contend with predators, changing weather and the need to keep in touch with each other," Dr Moore explained.

"It's like having to choose between 1000 restaurants (or trees in the koalas' case), spread all over town, without a restaurant guide."

By combining their map with data collected by the local Friends of the Koalas group over 10 years, the researchers found that koalas prefer larger trees -- which provide more food and shelter and a greater chance of interaction with other koalas -- over small ones.

"However, among these large trees, they avoid those that have leaves with an excess of nauseating toxins and trees with leaves that contain little protein," Dr Moore said.

Dr Moore said the research should inform conservation of trees, based on whether they are an important food source for animals.

"Plant chemistry restricts the use of trees by koalas, and thus limits the food available to koalas and potentially influences koala populations," he said.

"Our results show that what simply looks like a patch of forest to us can actually be a complicated mosaic of good and bad food patches for wildlife. Some trees can largely escape being eaten while some particular trees are especially important food resources.

"This reinforces the need to conserve large old trees for all wildlife, not just those species that use hollows for nesting.

"Large trees can take hundreds of years to grow and their loss through logging or just old age reduces both the amount of food available for leaf-eating animals, like the koala, and also limits their ability to choose the highest quality diet possible."

Dr Moore undertook the research as part of his PhD at ANU in collaboration with Professor Foley. Dr Moore is currently a post-doctoral fellow at James Cook University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Australian National University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Australian National University. "A Koala's Guide To The Treetop Buffet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050611154310.htm>.
Australian National University. (2005, June 12). A Koala's Guide To The Treetop Buffet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050611154310.htm
Australian National University. "A Koala's Guide To The Treetop Buffet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050611154310.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins