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.

Koala peeking out from a tree
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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."

Koala walking on the ground
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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.

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
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Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.