Koala : a natural history and an uncertain future

by Clode, Danielle,

Format: Print Book 2023
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Koalas regularly appeared in Australian biologist Danielle Clode's backyard, but it was only when a bushfire threatened that she truly paid them attention. She soon realized how much she had to learn about these complex and mysterious animals.

In vivid, descriptive prose, Clode embarks on a delightful and surprising journey through evolutionary biology, natural history, and ecology to understand where these enigmatic animals came from and what their future may hold. She begins her search with the fossils of ancient giant koalas, delving into why the modern koala has become the lone survivor of a once-diverse family of uniquely Australian marsupials.

Koala investigates the remarkable physiology of these charismatic creatures. Born the size of tiny "jellybeans," joeys face an uphill battle, from crawling into their mother's pouch to being weaned onto a toxic diet of gum-tree leaves, the koalas' single source of food.

Clode explores the complex relationship and unexpected connections between this endearing species and humans. She explains how koalas are simultaneously threatened with extinction in some areas due to disease, climate change, and increasing wildfires, while overpopulating forests in other parts of the country.

Deeply researched and filled with wonder, Koala is both a tender and inquisitive paean to a species unlike any other and a call to ensure its survival.

Map of koala distribution
Koala family tree
Into the woods: Koalas rare and plenty
From fossils and bones: Dropbears in the family ; The Lakes District ; From the gulf to the sea ; A giant at the foot of the world
Life in the forest: Anatomy of a climber ; The eucalypt empire ; You are what you eat ; The guts of the problem
A life in reflection: From pouch to piggyback ; Sociable loners ; When it's smart to be slow ; Sensory overload
Everything changes: Koalas far and wide ; A new arrival ; The English annexation ; War and guns ; Saving the koala
Future tense: Sex, disease, and genetic diversity ; Expansion and retreat ; Under fire ; In a perfect world.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Cuddly koalas may be ubiquitous in children's literature, but there aren't that many adult tales out there, a situation that author and animal behavior specialist Clode seeks to redress in this engaging, authoritative overview. Koalas, a genetically unique Australian marsupial, were generally ignored for centuries but are now the subject of international convocations. Clode reviews current research findings on their origins, migration patterns, life cycles, historic and contemporary interactions with humans, conservation efforts, and chances of survival in the face of climate change and habitat loss (it's estimated that as much as 40 percent of Australia's koala population perished in the 2021 wildfires). Clode shares enlightening details about her numerous interactions with koalas, including encounters in the wild, zoos, animal sanctuaries, and her own backyard. She interviews experts ranging from animal biologists and park rangers to Indigenous storytellers, bringing in elements of Australia's social and political history as she describes how koala populations have migrated and adapted. She ends on a cautiously positive note, giving hope that koalas will be around for future generations."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Koalas "deserve better than to be simultaneously patronised as fluffy children's toys and left to suffer from increasing diseases in ever-reducing habitats," according to this entertaining paean to the marsupials. Australian biologist Clode (Voyages to the South Seas) digs into the evolution, biology, and behavior of koalas, examining their prehistoric ancestors, how marsupial brains differ from other mammal brains, and why some koalas appear drawn to humans. She highlights the creatures' extraordinary senses and notes that they are one of the few animals known to have fingerprints, which may enhance their ability to sense vibrations. Acute hearing enables males to detect whether a rival is larger based on the frequency of its bellow, obviating the need to engage in physical competition for territory. Warning of the dangers that climate change poses for the animals, Clode reports that forest fires over the past several years have killed off a large chunk of the species and that because koalas don't molt, they struggle to make it through the hot summers. Research offers an insightful peek into the world of koalas and makes a persuasive case that though they've been underestimated, koalas must not be taken for granted. Like Leila Philip's Beaverland, this is the outing animal lovers didn't know they needed. (Jan.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Koala.
Koala -- Australia -- History.
Koala -- Conservation -- Australia.
Koala -- Ecology -- Australia.
Koala -- Habitat -- Australia.
Koala -- Evolution.
Koala -- Effect of human beings on -- Australia.
Koala -- Climatic factors.
Publisher New York, NY :W.W. Norton & Company,2023
Edition First American edition.
Other Titles Koala
Natural history and an uncertain future
Language English
Notes "An Australian biologist delves into the extraordinary world of koalas, from their ancient ancestors to the current threats to their survival"--Dust jacket.
Originally published: Koala : a life in trees. Australia : Black Inc., 2022.
Description xii, 322 pages : illustrations, 1 map ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 291-311) and index.
ISBN 9781324036838
Other Classic View