Koalas bellow when they want to avoid a fight -- and find a girl

Tim Marshall/Merlin Entertainments via Getty Images

People tend to raise their voices, seeking to dominate, when they get into conflict.

Koalas do it differently. The males, according to the latest research, bellow their presence to avoid confrontation with other males in the breeding season.

“They can tell who’s bigger from their calls and stay away from them,” says William Ellis of the The University of Queensland.

“At the same time they use their bellows to attract females.”

Dr Ellis and colleagues from San Diego Zoo Global, CQ University, University of Sydney and Kyoto University have mapped what they believe to be the first look inside the social system of a large group of wild koalas at St Bees Island near Rockhampton.

Ellis says the social system of the koala is poorly known despite them being a charismatic and well-known species.

“We had thought that in the mating season that male koalas would be fighting more but instead found that the males bellowed to reduce physical confrontations with other males,” he says.

“This allowed them to space themselves apart, with little direct mating competition, while, at the same time, attracting females and increasing the rate of male-female encounters.”

At the same time in the mating season, females spend more time together in shared spaces or trees.

“It’s like having a bar full of girls – they don’t start a fight together just because they share the same space,” he Ellis .

Koala interactions were mapped using GPS tracking collars on wild koalas.

The research is published in the journal PLOS One.

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