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.

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 April 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 April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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