Koalas are undeniably cute, but they might not be the smartest creatures on the planet. They chow down on eucalyptus leaves, which are pretty poisonous to most mammals and contain little nutrition. They look like bears, but they're not bears. Their thumbs are pure body horror. And they apparently smell about as good as a college roommate who believes that tea tree oil can replace actual showers. And yet, against all odds, koalas persist. And they sleep a lot.
It turns out that the standard koala spends between 18 and 22 hours a day drifting off to dreamland, according to the Australian Koala Foundation. Scientists have long believed that this may be due to their position as nature's own teddy bear, but recent studies point to a more biologically sound explanation.
The koala subsists strictly on eucalyptus. What you might not know is that eucalyptus is highly toxic, low on calories, and very difficult to digest. While the plants are poisonous to most mammals, koalas have developed specialized digestive bacteria that nullifies the venomous effects. There's a common misconception that the process has a psychotropic effect on the small marsupials. But in reality, koalas are pretty much straight edge, and their furry bodies are temples. Temples stuffed full of smelly leaves.
An upshot to the all-eucalyptus diet, which we can only assume Gwyneth Paltrow will be selling in subscription box form sometime soon, is that it provides these down under Teddy Ruxpins with all the hydration they need. Koalas are so rarely seen sipping from natural water sources that their name is thought to mean "never drink" in an Aboriginal language.
But koalas struggle to get enough nutrients and have to spend most of their waking hours eating leaf after leaf, pretending that they're fine. The rest of their time is spent conserving energy by taking the shuttle to snooze town. By National Geographic's reckoning, this makes them even more ambitious nappers than sloths, which top out at 20 hours of daily rest and relaxation.
While riding the train to Sleepytown, koalas use their shapely curves to their advantage. With what can only be described as pear-shaped bodies, they're able to easily anchor themselves in the forks of tree branches, often latching on with their honestly disturbing number of thumbs.
But Koalas aren't the only creatures whose picky eating habits lead to a generous helping of siestas. The Giant Panda is allegedly extremely dumb, and while it is biologically capable of consuming meat, it doesn't. In fact, they almost certainly should eat meat, given their digestive systems and their gargantuan nightmare teeth. Instead, the animals spend as much time as they can chowing down on low-calorie, farm-to-table bamboo. Despite shoving twenty to forty pounds of the stuff down their gullets on the daily, they don't get a whole lot of energy because they're essentially eating wood. As a result, they spend half of the day asleep, and the other half trying to find more splinters to munch on.
Science Focus noted that koalas aren't the only mammals that love to get more than forty winks each night. The brown bat has been observed sleeping for about twenty hours in a solar cycle. The fifth heaviest sleeper on the list is the North American possum at 18 hours a day, although it might just be faking it. The human baby comes in at number 8 on the list, described as sleeping for 16 hours a day, which is a statistic that will have new parents laughing uncontrollably, weeping inconsolably, and then laughing some more.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, according to Sleep.org, giraffes only need about two hours of sleep per day, which is often split up into several micro-naps. Meanwhile, walruses can go three and a half days without resting their eyes at all, which is more than a little impressive.
Finally, on a side note, koalas have individual fingerprints, just like human beings, and they're the only non-primates that have them. So if there's ever a koala crime spree, don't worry, we'll catch them - probably napping.
#Koala #Sleep #Animals
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Mar 27, 2020