What Do Koalas Eat – Koalas Diet

Do you know what do koalas eat? The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is herbivorous marsupial animal that is endemic to Australia. These animals are known to reside in the eastern as well as southern Australia that ranges from Adelaide and extending to the Cape York Peninsula.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the population had faced a sudden decline as a result now koalas have gone extinct in Tasmania or Western Australia. The origin of koalas is still in ambiguity however, some of the koala fossils have been discovered in northern Australia dating back to 20 million years ago. In those times, northern Australia had been covered with a dense rainforest. Besides, these fossils denote that some 50,000 years ago there existed giant koalas across Australia, though the size is still unknown.

What Do Koalas Eat?

Koalas predominantly feed on eucalypt leaves. These leaves have low protein and are high in ingestible stuffs and are embedded with phenolic compound that are deadly to most animals. These bears have unique behavioral characteristics in that they are capable to remain stationary for about 16 – 18 hours a day. Most of their time is spent on sleeping. These animals are known to be aggressive towards other koalas.

Cuddly Koala - what do koalas eat

Cuddly Koala

What Do Koalas Eat in the Wild?

The koala bears primarily feed on eucalyptus leaves possibly due to an evolutionary adaptation as these leaves contain low proteins and are rich in stodgy substances. They have one of the slowest metabolic rates and koalas can stay stationery for about 16 – 18 hours in a day.

Koala bears spend almost 4 – 5 hours on feeding. Most of the feeding takes place at night. They are known to consume 500 grams (18 oz) of eucalyptus leaves each day. Some of the most favorite eucalyptus leaves are Blue Gum, Swamp Gum, Grey Gum, and Tallowwood.

The strong limbs of koalas support them in climbing vertically on eucalypt trunks, at the same time holding it powerfully with their forepaws. Though they are slow movers, but they’re also capable to take a leap of 6 ft (2 m) from trunk to trunk.

While eucalyptus leaves offer much less nutritional worth, it is also abundant in indigestible lignin and cellulose that contains a high proportion of toxic chemicals. On the positive side, koalas have adapted to this extreme living through devising number of ways. They ignore toxic leaves and constantly change their food tree throughout the year. Thanks to the koala’s liver, which detoxifies the poisonous chemical in the leaves.

It is because of their low-energy-content diet that they have a slow movement. Of all marsupials, koalas are known to have the smallest brain in proportion to their body size, i.e. only 0.2% of their body weight.

Koalas are not regular drinkers as they get enough water from eating eucalyptus leaves.

They mostly eat at night however; there is no fixed time for feeding. On an average, these species consume 500 grams (18 oz) of eucalypt leaves daily. The liver is responsible for deactivating the poisonous compounds. Apart from eucalyptus leaves, koalas also feed on variety of other leaves such as Acacia, Melaleuca, and Leptospermum. Depends on habitats and regions koalas sometime prefer to eat Blue Gum, Manna Gum, Grey Gum, and Tallowwood. This is mostly observed in koalas living in south. These bears fancy their living in arid areas like swamps, coastal waters such as River Red Gum.

Koalas Diet in Queensland

Highly preferred Eucalyptus spp.

  • E. tereticornis
  • E. camaldulensis
  • E. propinqua
  • E. microcorys

Less frequently eaten Eucalyptus spp.

  • E. crebra
  • E. populnea
  • E. tessellaris
  • E. fibrosa
  • E. umbra
  • E. resinifera
  • E. orgadophila
  • E. coolabah
  • E. (=Corymbia) maculate

Other genera of trees utilized

  • Tristania
  • Angophora
  • Melaleuca
  • Lophostemon
  • Acacia

Koalas Diet in Victoria

Highly preferred Eucalyptus spp.

  • E. viminalis
  • E. prioriana
  • E. ovata
  • E. globulus
  • E. camaldulensis

Less frequently eaten Eucalyptus spp.

  • E. obliqua
  • E. radiata
  • E. goniocalyx
  • E. macrorhyncha
  • E. tereticornis
  • E. camphora
  • E. polyanthemos
  • E. regnans
  • E. rubida

Less frequently eaten Eucalyptus spp.

  • Acacia
  • Banksia
  • Leptospermum
  • Melaleuca
  • Casuarina

Koalas Diet in South Australia

Highly preferred Eucalyptus spp.

  • E. viminalis
  • E. camadulensis
  • E. leucoxylon

These leaf-eating marsupials sometimes show different food preferences while living at the same site. However, scientists do not understand this feeding behavior. According to some anecdotal information an individual’s preference may in part associated with its mother. In other words, it is reasonable to assume that young koalas rely on tree species where they wean.

Koalas are often observed feeding on a single leaf at a time as they employ their incisors (at the front part of the mouth) to properly grasp the leaf for further mastication.

Koalas retain their food for about 200 hours in their digestive tract which is by far the longest retention time of any mammal.

What Do Koalas Eat | Video

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