Koalas: Not the smartest tool in the shed
Sure, they’re cute and cuddly. They’re incredibly photogenic and they’re unashamedly Australian. However, Koalas seemingly aren’t very good at being animals.
What do I mean by this? Well, koalas seem to have an uncanny ability to defy nature. They lack higher-level recognition, don’t have a lot of contingencies and strategies for continued survival, and eat things that by rights shouldn’t be eaten.
Koalas have a ‘smooth’ brain. This means that they lack higher level recognition and understanding that many other animals have.
If you gather a bunch of Eucalyptus leaves, which the koalas eat, and put them on a plate in front of the koala, the koala won’t know what to do with them; they just sit there and gawk at it.
They lack the ability to discern that it’s still food given that the leaves have moved off the tree and onto a new source that they’re unfamiliar with.
Another fun biproduct of their smooth brain is that koalas don’t really seem to understand what rain is. They will just sit in that rain wondering why they get wet until the rain passes.
As the Koala’s diet consists entirely of vegetation, read leaves, they end up consistently grinding down their teeth on the hard chewing surfaces. This is especially challenging for the koala, as the Eucalyptus is a tough leaf and is difficult to chew and digest.
Other marsupials have adapted strategies to combat this. The wombat has rootless teeth, which means that their teeth never stop growing, so they can continue eating. Kangaroos have sets of teeth that rotate towards the front of the mouth as the older teeth grind down.
Koalas, however, haven’t adapted at all to grinding down their teeth. As such, once their teeth have ground down, they cannot eat their main source of food anymore and simply starve to death.
The koala’s diet consists mainly of Eucalyptus leaves. Koalas are only one of three animal species to be able to survive on such a diet, and with good reason.
The Eucalyptus leaves are low in nutrition and calories and are very fibrous, meaning they require a lot of chewing before they can be swallowed.
On top of this, the leaves are extremely poisonous. The koala has a large caecum, which allows it to digest such a poisonous food. That doesn’t stop the fact that the Eucalyptus leaf lacks goodness and nutrition, meaning that koalas get very little energy from the effort they put into eating.
As their food doesn’t provide a lot of energy, koalas are rather lethargic creatures. They’re never able to be in a hurry to arrive anywhere, and end up sleeping over 20 hours a day. In that sense at least, I feel like the koalas have it made.