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One of Australia’s most iconic animals, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is bear-like in appearance with a stout body and large paws, but is in fact a marsupial. The fur is predominantly grey to light brown, being lighter and shorter in the warmer north of its range, where the koala is also smaller. The chin, chest, insides of the ears and forelimbs are white, with long, white hairs edging the large, round ears. The grey rump is speckled with white. The koala is well adapted to a life spent mainly in the canopy of trees, possessing unusually long forelimbs in relation to their hind limbs, and specially adapted, padded paws to aid in gripping and climbing. It also has large claws, except for on the first digit of the hind paw. The first and second digits of the front paws, as well as the first digits of the hind paws, are opposed like thumbs to help grip branches. The second and third digits of the hind paws are partially fused together to form a grooming claw for removing ticks.  male koala is larger with a broader face than the female. Mature males are further distinguishable from females by a brown gland on the chest that produces scent used to mark trees within their territory. Like other marsupials, the female koala has a pouch with a strong, contracting, ring-shaped muscle around the backwards-facing opening, which prevents the young from falling out. Koalas in southern parts of Australia are larger and have thicker fur than those in the north. Gumleaves provide almost all of the moisture a koala needs, and it rarely drinks water.

Former Koala Subspecies



See Also