WTF Fun Fact 12930 – Koala Bears Sleep 22 Hours a Day

Koalas bears might be cute, but they’re some of the least energetic animals on Earth. In fact, koala bears sleep 22 hours a day (or at least from 18-22 hours). The rest of the time they spend wanding around looking for food or mates.

Koala bear facts

The koala is a marsupial (not a bear) native to Australia. They live in the eucalyptus forests in south and east Australia, which is where they find their food – it’s like sleeping at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Considering how brutal competition can be among the world’s creatures, it’s a wonder that koalas still exist. They only eat one thing (eucalyptus), that thing is toxic, and it doesn’t reall have many nutrients. Nevertheless, they eat about 1 pound of eucalyptus a day, which is also where they get most of their water.

Their little bodies can break down the toxins in ways other animals can’t, however, while they manage to extract enough nutrients to stay alive, their diet doesn’t really provide them with any extra energy. Hence all the sleeping.

Koala bears sleep most of their lives

Beacuse eucalyptus doesn’t provide them with enough nutrients for a high-energy diet, koala bears sleep for the vast majority of the day – from 18-22 hours. During this time, their bodies need much of the energy they take in to break down the eucalyptus.

The rest of their time is dedicated to survival – eating and mating to be exact.

Koala bear survival

Between poaching and habitat destruction, koala populations have plummeted. According to National Geographic (cited below): “Land clearing, logging, and bushfires—especially the devastating 2019-2020 season—have destroyed much of the forest they live in. Koalas need a lot of space—about a hundred trees per animal—a pressing problem as Australia’s woodlands continue to shrink.”

Koalas are now on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s list of the 10 most vulnerable animals to climate change. And NatGeo notes that “Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is decreasing the nutritional quality of eucalyptus leaves (which is already quite low) and causing longer, more intense droughts and wildfires.”

Droughts also force koalas to go in search for water, which means they have to leave their eucalyptus trees “spending precious energy and putting them at a higher risk of predation. Predators include dingoes and large owls. They’re also at risk of getting hit by cars and attacked by dogs.”

Chlamydia is also very common among pockets of koala bear populations and causes many of the animals to be blind and infertile.

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Source: “Koalas 101” – National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12748 – Koala Bears Have Fingerprints

Koala bears have fingerprints just like apes and humans. This is surprising since our last common ancestor lived over 100 million years ago.

Nevertheless, koalas have retained their unique fingerprints.

We tend to think of fingerprints as solely a product of our criminal justice system. And yet, those little lines on our fingers actually serve a purpose besides putting us at a crime scene.

The purpose of fingerprints

Our fingerprints help us grab and feel objects, and researchers believe they help our sense of touch. This isn’t so important to us anymore, but it is helpful to animals who can use touch sensations to judge whether leaves, for example, belong to the right tree.

Our fingerprints actually cause little vibrations when we run them over objects. And since koalas really only eat eucalyptus, they like to be sure they’re in the midst of the right kind of buffet before they start chowing down.

Fingerprints are unique

Since you can’t really tell a koala’s fingerprint from a human’s, at least in terms of patterns, they may be the perfect sidekick for a crime scene. There’s no koala bear fingerprint database, so you can pretty much just let them touch everything to upend an investigation (just kidding – don’t try this at home – or anywhere else for that matter).

However, if a koala at a zoo has committed a crime, theoretically, you could fingerprint the residents to figure out whodunnit. We don’t think that’s ever been a necessity, but it sounds like a good premise for a children’s crime novel (if those existed).

Koalas bears have fingerprints and other animals have…

While koala bears have human-like fingerprints, other animals have identifying marks on their paw pads as well.

According to New Scientist (cited below):

Individual cats and dogs, for example, have unique whisker patterns. Zebras have distinct stripe arrangements and individual leopards and spotted dolphins have their own spot patterns. Humpback whales also have unique markings on the underside of their tails.”

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Source: “Do other animals have fingerprints? And what purpose do they serve?” — New Scientist