Why do koalas hang out in trees?
Thursday, June 5, 2014, 1:15 PM - A new study out of Melbourne University used thermal imaging to reveal that koalas rest on trees to help cope with extreme heat.
The research team studied the behaviour of 30 koalas during a bout of hot weather east of Melbourne.
They found that while panting and licking fur helps keep body temperature down, it can lead to dehydration. Resting on cooler tree trunks, on the other hand, provides an effortless solution.
"We found trunks of some tree species can be over 5°C cooler than the air during hot weather," said lead researcher Natalie Briscoe, in a statement.
"Access to these trees can save about half the water a koala would need to keep cool on a hot day. This significantly reduces the amount of heat stress for koalas."
The researchers say the findings are important because they confirmed the theory that 'tree-hugging' is helps koalas -- and possibly other animals -- deal with extreme heat.
"Heat wave events can hit koala populations hard," said study collaborator Professor Andrew Krockenberger, from James Cook University in a statement.
"About a quarter of the koalas in one population died during a heat-wave of 2009, so understanding the types of factors that can make some populations more resilient is important.”
RELATED VIDEO: PROTECTING ENDANGERED SPECIES -- THE OKAPI