Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus
November 2011

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(Archer et al. 1991) (Beck 2008) (Bingham 2005) (Black 1999) (Dixon et al. 2006) (Houlden et al. 1999) (Jackson 2007) (Kirsch et al. 1997) (Lee & Martin 1988) (Louys et al. 2009) (Meredith et al. 2011) (Reed 2000) (Sherwin et al. 2000) (Takami et al. 1998)

Describer (Date): (Goldfuss 1817) Lipurus cinereus

    Phylum: Chordata
        Class: Mammalia
             Order: Diprotodontia (11 families, 110 species; includes kangaroos, wombats, pygmy possums, gliders and others)
                  Suborder: Phalangeriformes (cuscuses, brushtail possums, pygmy possums)
                  Suborder: Macropodiformes (kangaroos, wallabies and allies, bettongs, potaroos, rat kangaroos)
                   Suborder: Vombatiformes (wombats and koalas)
                        Family: Vombatidae (wombats)
                        Family: Phascolarctidae (koalas)
                              Genus: Phascolarctos (de Blainville 1816)
                                     Species: Phascolarctos cinereus (Koala)
Taxonomic History and Nomenclature

Evolutionary History Cultural History

(Ellis & Bercovitch 2007) (Ellis et al. 2009) (Ellis et al 2010a) (Gordon et al. 2006) (Hindell & Lee 1990) (Jackson 2007) (Martin 2001) (Sharp 1995)
(Takahashi et al 2007)


Koala distribution map

Koala distribution. Click on map for more detailed distribution at IUCN website.

From IUCN Phascolarctos cinereus fact sheet 2010


(Australian Koala Foundation 2010) (Degabriele 1980) (Ellis & Bercovitch 2011) (Grand & Barboza 2001) (Henneberg et al. 1997) (Hume 1999) (Jackson 2003) (Jackson 2007) (Lanyon & Sanson 1986)(Lee & Martin 1988) (Louys et al. 2009) (Nowak 1999)
(Smith 1979a) (Sonntag 1921) (Szalay 1994) (Tuttle 1975) (Weisbecker & Sánchez-Villagra 2006)

Body Weight:
4 - 15 kg (9 - 33 lbs), averaging 11 kg (24 lbs)
Females can be 50% smaller
than males
Size varies by latitude - smaller in north
Head/Body Length: 600 - 850 mm (23.6 - 33.5 in)
Tail Length: vestigial, hidden by fur


Koalas have highly sensitive ears.

Highly sensitive ears help koalas detect low pitched bellows of other koalas. Their second and third toes are partly fused and wrapped with a single sheath of skin but each toe retains a claw.

Image credit: Epstula from Flickr
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Sexual Dimorphism Other Physical Characteristics

(Charlton et al. 2013) (Eberhard 1978) (Ellis et al. 2001) (Ellis et al. 2002b) (Ellis et al. 2009) (Grand & Barboza 2001) (Jackson 2007) (Lee & Martin 1988) (Martin 2001) (Martin & Handasyde 1990) (Melzer et al. 2010) (Mitchell 1990a,b) (Savolainen et al. 2004) (Smith 1979a)
(Smith 1980a,b,c) (Smith 1987) (Tobey et al 2009) (Tyndale-Biscoe 1995) (Wroe 2004)

Koalas sleep or sit 20 hours a day.

Dependent on a diet of Eucalyptus that’s low in calories, koalas survive with a low metabolism and a habit of sleeping or sitting 20 hours a day. Dense wooly fur cushions the koala from branches and protects from extremes of the weather.

Image credit: BlacktouchYellow from Flickr
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Activity Cycle
Home Range/Territory Social Groups


Olfaction/Scent Marking (Tobey et al. 2009) Play Locomotion Interspecies Interaction

(Brooker et al. 2006) (Cork & Sanson 1990) (Grand & Barboza 2001) (Higgins et al 2011 (Hume 1999) (Jackson 2003, 2007) (Martin & Handasyde 1999) (Moore & Foley 2000, 2005)
(Ullrey et al. 1981a,b)

(Bercovitch et al. 2006) (Ellis et al. 2009) (Ellis et al. 2010a) (Ellis & Bercovitch 2011) (Gordon et al. 1990) (Johnston et al. 2000) (Krockenberger 1996) (Lee & Martin 1988) (Martin 2001) (Martin et al. 2008) (Martin & Handasyde 1990, 1999) (McLean & Handasyde 2006) (Mitchell 1990a) (Russell 1982) (Smith 1980a,b,c) (Takahashi et al. 2009) (Thompson 1987) (Tobey et al. 2006) (White & Kunst 1990)

Reproduction Gestation: Approximately 35 days

Life Stages

Young koalas stay in the puoch for up to 8 months.

Young koalas stay in the pouch for up to 8 months; after exiting they travel on their mother’s back and continue nursing for another 4 months. They will stay with the mother until the next joey is born, sometimes not until two years of age.

Image credit: sillypucci from Flickr
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Infant (< 1 year old) Juvenile/Subadult Adult Longevity (Martin et al. 2008) Mortality

(Crandall 1964) (Doyle et al. 2002) (Giezendanner 2011) (Irvine 2011) (Jackson 2003) (Jackson et al. date unknown) (Irvine 2011) (Lee & Martin 1988)

(Australian Koala Foundation 2009) (Ellis et al 2010b) (Gordon et al. 2006) (Gordon et al. 2008) (Martin 1989) (Martin 2001) (Maxwell et al. 1996) (Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council 2009) (NCC 2003) (Phillips 2000) (Sherwin et al. 2000) (USFWS Federal Register 2000)

Population Status Conservation Threats to survival
Important Web Resources:

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