10 Things You Didn’t Know About Koalas

Alizada Studios/iStock via Getty Images
Alizada Studios/iStock via Getty Images

Sure, they're cute, and they certainly look cuddly. But here are a few surprising things you might not have known about koalas.

1. Koalas hug trees to keep cool.

Scientists used thermal cameras to watch koalas hanging out in trees. They saw that when the weather was warm, the animals moved to lower parts of the trees and pressed themselves close to the trunks, wedging their butts right into the coolest spots.

2. Koalas exhibit same-sex mating behavior.

In captivity, sexual encounters among koalas have been known to involve up to five females. They last twice as long as female-male encounters.

3. Up to 90 percent of female koalas have chlamydia.

Predators aren’t that important to koala population control, but chlamydia might be. In the late '90s, chlamydia-free koalas were introduced into Mount Eccles National Park in Victoria, which had a huge Manna Gum tree population. Without chlamydia to control the population, koala numbers doubled every few years, and thousands of hectares of forest were at threat until hormonal contraception was introduced. In other areas where chlamydia-free koalas were introduced, the koalas killed the trees and then died of starvation [PDF]. When koalas are stressed, chlamydia—which is normally harmless—limits the population growth. Now, rather than overpopulation, a combination of habitat loss and a retrovirus is making chlamydia a problem even as the population dwindles.

4. Koalas fingerprints are virtually indistinguishable from human ones.

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Koala fingerprints can be mistaken for one another in criminal investigations. The animals' hands are covered in warts.

5. Koalas are extremely picky eaters.

Koalas eat around half a kilogram of eucalyptus leaves a day. They’re very picky, tending to choose around 30 of the 600 varieties of eucalyptus trees out there. Koalas prefer large trees, but avoid those with low protein content and nauseating toxins. The problem is that two trees of the same species right next to each other can have wildly different toxin levels, forcing the koala to rely on their smell. Eucalyptus leaves are very low in calcium, forcing the koalas to go to the ground and eat dirt. They are reported to smell like cough drops because of all that eucalyptus.

6. Koalas sleep a lot.

Because of their diet, koalas have an unusually large cecum—the beginning of the large intestine—to help them digest their diet of eucalyptus leaves. On the other hand, they have tiny brains because brains use a lot of energy and their diets don’t give them much to work with. They can only stay awake for four hours a day.

7. Koala joeys feed on their mother’s "pap."

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Pap is a kind of soup that forms in a mother koala's cecum and is excreted—so yes, baby koalas eat their mother’s droppings. The stuff is full of microorganisms to get their tiny digestive tracts ready for a lifetime of toxic leaves for lunch.

8. The animal's scientific name, Phascolarctos cinereus, loosely means "ash-gray pocket-bear."

Koalas are not bears, however: They’re marsupials. Their closest living relative is the wombat.

9. The word koala comes from an Aboriginal language.

Koala derives from the Dharug language, which was spoken by the Darug people living in present-day New South Wales, and has also been written as koola, kulla, and kula.

10. Koalas sometimes have white fur.

Though extremely rare, koalas with fur in a color other than gray have been documented. Mick, an incredibly rare white koala with white fur and dark eyes and nose, was treated at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in 2007 and released. Albino koalas are white with pink eyes and noses; one was born at the San Diego Zoo in 1985.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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A Wily Fox With a Passion for Fashion Stole More Than 100 Shoes From a Berlin Neighborhood

The smirk.
The smirk.
Brett Jordan, Unsplash

In Berlin, Germany, a fox has embarked on a crime spree that puts Dora the Explorer’s Swiper completely to shame.

CNN-News18 reports that residents of Zehlendorf, a locality in southeastern Berlin, spent weeks scratching their heads as shoes continued to disappear from their stoops and patios overnight. After posting about the mystery on a neighborhood watch site and reading accounts from various bewildered barefooters, a local named Christian Meyer began to think the thief might be a fox.

He was right. Meyer caught sight of the roguish robber with a mouthful of flip-flop and followed him to a field, where he found more than 100 stolen shoes. The fox appears to have an affinity for Crocs, but the cache also contained sandals, sneakers, a pair of rubber boots, and one black ballet flat, among other footwear. Unfortunately, according to BBC News, Meyer’s own vanished running shoe was nowhere to be seen.

Foxes are known for their playfulness, and it’s not uncommon for one to trot off with an item left unattended in a yard. Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife explains that foxes are drawn to “things that smell good,” which, to a fox, includes dog toys, balls, gardening gloves, and worn shoes. And if your former cat’s backyard gravesite is suddenly empty one day, you can probably blame a fox for that, too; they bury their own food to eat later, so a deceased pet is basically a free meal.

The fate of Zehlendorf’s furriest burglar remains unclear, but The Cut’s Amanda Arnold has a radical idea: that the residents simply let the fox keep what is obviously a well-curated collection.

[h/t CNN-News18]