Koalas Really Do Know Their Eucalyptus Leaves

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and President Barack Obama. Andrew Taylor/G20 Australia via Getty Images

Koala populations may be influenced on where they decide to live by eucalyptus leaf toxin and nutrient content, according to a study.

The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE by Eleanor Stalenberg from The Australian National University and colleagues.

Koalas predominantly eat eucalyptus leaves and their population density varies widely in different eucalyptus forests, possibly due to variation in the nutritional quality of the eucalyptus leaves.

The study sampled leaves from eight species of eucalyptus trees in forests on the far south coast of NSW to investigate how leaf chemistry might influence koala distribution.

They found that koalas visited trees with leaves containing higher available nitrogen — used by the body to make proteins — and avoided trees with higher leaf concentrations of a toxic chemical found exclusively in eucalypts.

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