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Australia’s koalas cope with extreme heat by resting against cooler tree trunks, new research has revealed. Thermal imaging uncovered the koalas’ cool plan, confirming that they choose to hug trees that can be more than 5°C cooler than the air during hot weather.
Researchers observed the behaviour of 30 koalas during hot weather at French Island, Victoria. Co-author Andrew Krockenberger from James Cook University in Cairns, in far north-east Australia, says heat wave events can hit koala populations hard.
"We know that about a quarter of the koalas in one population in New South Wales died during a heat wave in 2009," Professor Krockenberger said. "Understanding the types of factors that can make some populations more resilient is important." Koalas also pant and lick their fur to cool down, but that can lead to dehydration.
"Access to these trees can save about half the water a koala would need to keep cool on a hot day," lead researcher Dr Natalie Briscoe, from the University of Melbourne, said.