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Koalas hug trees to keep their cool, new study says

Koalas Hug Trees To Keep Their Cool, New Study Says


Ever wonder exactly why koalas hug trees? Well, aside from it being incredibly adorable, a team of researchers from the University of Melbourne says it serves an important purpose.

According to HLN "Apparently, they hug the lower parts of the tree because that's where it's cooler. And they somehow are able to pass off some of their body heat to the tree."

In a new study, Biology Letters reports scientists found koalas move to lower parts of trees in hotter weather to keep cool. The researchers found they even press their bodies closer to the trunks to get the maximum benefit.

The team made these observations while studying 30 koalas in Melbourne, Australia, during a few particularly hot summer days.

The BBC reports the scientists used a thermal camera mounted on a long pole up in the trees to measure the temperatures the koalas were feeling.

National Geographic notes the researchers found in the hotter summer weather, the koalas would move down the trees instead of staying up high near the leaves.

One of the study's authors told the BBC: "They'd just flop over the [lower] tree trunks. It looked like they were spread-eagled and uncomfortable; it seemed like the wrong thing to do."

But after comparing the temperatures of the tree trunks and the koalas themselves, the researchers discovered the animals that hung out near the bottom of the trees were up to seven degrees cooler than the air. (Via Flickr / Cathy)

The Huffington Post quotes one of the study's authors in a statement summing up their findings. "When we took the heat imagery it dramatically confirmed our idea that 'tree hugging' was an important cooling behavior in extreme heat. Cool tree trunks are likely to be an important microhabitat during hot weather for other tree-dwelling species, including primates, leopards, birds and invertebrates."

So, why don't koalas beat the heat by panting or licking their fur, like other mammals do?

The researchers told The Guardian doing that could leave the koalas dangerously dehydrated. Koalas don't have sweat glands, and during times of high heat and low rainfall, the animals simply can't endure the evaporation caused by panting or licking.

Well, no wonder koalas love to hang out in trees, then! The study was published Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters.

Join the discussion

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aro9304739 June 05 2014 at 7:11 AM

they are actually liberals

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
schlauger1 aro9304739 June 05 2014 at 11:26 AM

Huh?

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1 reply
jsujet schlauger1 June 05 2014 at 1:07 PM

Tree hugger.....

Flag +5 rate up
oranbaker51 aro9304739 June 05 2014 at 4:29 PM

lol thanks for the laugh :)

Flag Reply +1 rate up
mcrebel June 05 2014 at 11:40 AM

My independent study of the question...Why do Koalas hug trees? shows quite different results. The reason these creatures hug the trees is to keep from falling on their asses.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
rwitchwoman63 June 05 2014 at 8:56 AM

They're so cute....Wish I could have one as a pet!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
5 replies
dwtomczyk June 05 2014 at 6:07 AM

so much for hanging on for dear life

Flag Reply +2 rate up
coopdabomb June 05 2014 at 8:56 AM

And someone spent money on this.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
arikaofkataii coopdabomb June 05 2014 at 2:08 PM

Well actually, yes they did. Understanding how animals adapte to extreme weather conditions actually has plausible impact in modern, human science. It can lead to innovation in climate control, in the future of space travel, and medical fronts, too. Not to mention, learning new things is always fascinating. It is also important to understand the true interactions of an animal with their environment in order to help preserve more critically endangered species. Of course, knowing that would require thinking outside of a box, and that is often beyond the desire of many people to do. NOTE - not saying you are incapable, just that you chose not to see that it does have valuable, practical purpose.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Kate coopdabomb June 05 2014 at 3:06 PM

It's called science. Maybe you've heard of it. Then again, maybe not.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
drakomega7 June 05 2014 at 6:58 PM

Koalas are smart enough to realize that trees are important to keeping the earth cooler, among the many other benefits trees have, including providing oxygen.

It's a pity Republicans aren't even as smart as Koalas to realize this.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jimormarylosc June 05 2014 at 10:40 AM

nice story

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Linda B June 05 2014 at 10:12 AM

I will remember this next time I get overheated in the woods.

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boardsrbetter June 05 2014 at 2:58 PM

They delete my comment about how this isnt news and there is more pressing stuff going on in america, but they leave the stupid political bs. AOL, how about you do your job and erase all irrelevant comments, or you back the fu** off when somebody calls you out for bringing crappy news to the table.

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3 replies
ambonding June 05 2014 at 9:18 AM

Adorable. Had a friend from Austrailia and she would see them in her yard. Too cute

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