What do koalas eat?

Koalas are herbivores that primarily feed on eucalyptus leaves, which are their main dietary source. However, their diet is not limited to just eucalyptus leaves. Here are the key points about the koala's diet:

Eucalyptus Leaves

  • Koalas consume a variety of eucalyptus leaves, which are tough and poisonous to most animals due to their high toxin content.124
  • They have evolved specialized digestive systems and gut bacteria to break down the toxic compounds and extract nutrients from eucalyptus leaves.12
  • Koalas exhibit preferences for certain eucalyptus species, with their favorites varying by region, such as River Red Gum, Forest Red Gum, Tallowwood, Grey Gum, and Manna Gum.5

Other Plant Sources

  • In addition to eucalyptus, koalas occasionally consume leaves from other related tree species like lophostemon, melaleuca, corymbia (brush box, paperbark, and bloodwood trees), casuarina, and angophora.15
  • During times of drought or scarcity of preferred eucalyptus species, koalas may even eat leaves from introduced exotic plant species in their habitats.5
  • They have been observed eating bark, wood, and termite mounds, likely to obtain additional minerals and nutrients.5

Dietary Requirements

  • Koalas consume around 200-500 grams of leaves per day, which provide most of their water requirements (up to 50% water content).2
  • Their slow metabolic rate and long sleep cycles (up to 20 hours per day) help conserve energy from their low-energy, high-fiber diet.12
  • Koalas are highly selective eaters, preferring only a few of the hundreds of eucalyptus species available in Australia.2
In summary, while eucalyptus leaves form the staple diet for koalas, their dietary habits are more complex and adaptable than commonly perceived, incorporating various plant sources based on availability and regional preferences.1245
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