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Koalas Change Trees From Day to Night

The trees koalas prefer to sit in doesn't necessarily correspond to where they prefer eating.

Give me a home among the gum trees, one to snooze in during the day, and a different one at night to eat.

That's the preference of koalas, according to a new study that examines the iconic Australian animal's behavior and feeding patterns published in the latest issue of CSIRO journal Wildlife Research.

The discovery has implications for koala conservation, says study lead author Karen Marsh of the Australian National University.

Photos: Amazing Animal Friendships

"At the moment a koala habitat is based on the trees people find koalas in during the day, but those aren't necessarily the trees they want to eat, and so we need a broader habitat definition," said Marsh.

Although koalas are a popular species for study, very little is known about their behavior and feeding patterns, especially at night.

"A lot of people have researched what trees koalas prefer from a non-feeding perspective, but there's an assumption that if you see a koala in a tree, then they probably eat it," said Marsh.

"Just by looking at koalas in trees, without taking into account how much they eat from those trees, means we're missing the larger picture of what else they use these trees for.

"We wanted to know what makes koalas interested in one type of eucalypt rather than another."

Bugging koalas To investigate what koalas get up to day and night, Marsh and colleagues attached microphones to eight animals in a bush reserve on Victoria's Phillip Island.

They used audio and radio telemetry to track koala movements and continuously monitor their activities for 14 days, to determine their feeding patterns and social interactions.

"We recorded hundreds of hours of data," said co-author Ben Moore of the University of Western Sydney.

"We were able to determine which trees they were in at different times, and could also hear them munching on leaves. This allowed us to record the types of trees they visited, as well as when, how often and for how long they feed."

The researchers were then able to examine the trees being used by the koalas, and analyse the nutritional composition of the leaves.

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Koala favorites They found the trees koalas preferred to sit in, didn't necessarily correspond to what they preferred eating.

Individual koalas varied in how many trees they visited, how many meals they ate and how long they spent feeding during each 24-hour period.

They liked to relax in blue gums (Eucalyptus globulus) during the day, but fed mainly at night, with a general preference for Manner gums (Eucalyptus viminalis).

"We don't really know how koalas choose trees, but they all seem to prefer leaves with more protein and less toxins, and spend much longer feeding in those trees," said Marsh.

"Koalas eat very different amounts from each tree they visit and that is highly dependent on the nutritional value of the leaves.

"Each tree can have very different levels of proteins and toxins compared to the tree next to it regardless of the species, which can have a big impact on how much the koalas eat."

The researchers also found koalas had a very strong preference for sitting in large trees with more shade during the day.

"Because their lives are lived in trees, they use them for so many different reasons apart from feeding, such as shelter and for socialization with other koalas or alternatively to avoid them," said Marsh.

As direct observation of koala behavior is difficult in the long-term, the researchers suggest measuring leaf cuticle fragments or waxes in feces would be a more accurate way of predicting a koala's diet intake and behavior.

A koala in a tree on Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia.

Among the





this week, one story was of the amazing friendship formed between a

tiger named Amur and a goat named Timur

. Timur was supposed to be a meal for the big cat, but the friendly goat had other ideas. Now, so far, they are best buds. They're not the only unusual animal friendships, though. Let's look at a few more.

Tiger And Goat Forge Unlikely Friendship In Russian Zoo

Here's another pair of cute, fast friends. Meet Kumbali and Kago -- a puppy and a cheetah cub (Kumbali's the cheetah and the lab mix is Kago). They live at Virginia's Metro Richmond Zoo. It's not clear how long they will remain together, but they seem to love each other's company. (Check out this


, if you can handle all the cuteness.) Next we'll take a look at some unforgettable pictures from

Rocky Ridge Refuge

, which knows a thing or two about unlikely animal friendships, as you will see.

Cheetah Cub, Puppy Make Fast Friends At Va. Zoo

It's not every day you see a baby skunk and a kitten getting to know each other on your couch. But it was a typical day for Janice Wolf, her menagerie of dogs, sheep, donkeys, horses, emus, and countless cats, ducks, rabbits, turtles -- and whatever animal may need a home that day. Wolf runs

Rocky Ridge Refuge

in Gassville, Ark. The refuge is her personal labor of love for abandoned, abused and injured animals of every shape, size, species and ailment. Wolf's rescues generally enter the refuge with horrific tales of neglect and abuse. But through Wolf's perseverance many of the animals go on to live long, happy lives -- filled with some of the most amazing interspecies friendships. "The only rule we have here is 'we gotta get along,'" said Wolf. "And they do." Above, we see an abandoned kitten (part of a litter left for dead when the kittens were just a day old) that engaged Josh, the resident skunk. Josh was raised by humans and then abandoned and didn't have the necessary skills to survive in the wild.

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Shown is one of Rocky Ridge's great success stories, Tristan, a three-legged dog (top left), who came from a horribly abusive home and went on to make frequent visits to nursing homes, as a therapy dog. His friendship with Fiesta, an orphaned deer, was also legendary. "He just assigned himself the protector," recalls Wolf. "He came from such a terrible place but he was so loving and forgiving. That’s the great thing about animals -- they pay it forward." Meanwhile, Duncan, the dog at right, also came to Rocky Ridge Refuge "from a bad situation." But he never seemed to hold it against any person or animal. Here, he uses Nabisco the fawn as a pillow.

You'd never know it from Parfait's belly-up smile and her gentle demeanor with Mark, the emu chick, that she was once so abused her collar had become embedded in her neck. Parfait came to Rocky Ridge Refuge after living on the streets of St. Louis. Rescuers found her with a litter of puppies that had frozen to death. Parfait, too, was close to death, according to Wolf, who spent time nursing the pitbull back to health. Parfait broke the boundaries of pit bull prejudice, enjoying all things cute and fluffy, from chicks to bunnies.

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Here Rocky Ridge's capybara Cheesecake befriends dogs. Cornbread, a deaf bull terrier (bottom right) and Cheesecake were instant friends, according to Wolf.

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Ivan, the Catahoula mix, started going blind at about a year old, but it never stopped him from "nannying" Rocky Ridge's orphans, like Raoul the raccoon.

Hibernators Stretch After Long Winter's Nap: Photos

Blade, the Irish wolfhound, came to Rocky Ridge Refuge as a puppy and then spent the next year of his life recovering from paralysis of all four limbs. With lots of physical therapy and love, Wolf was able to help Blade learn to walk on his own. Before he could walk, however, he was a favorite of the other baby refugees, who often kept him company inside while the other dogs were able to roam outside. Look closely and you can see that Blade is cuddling with a duckling.

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This photo may be the true image of brotherly love. The orphaned lamb was adopted by the mother of the puppy he's sleeping atop. The mother dog gave birth to 10 puppies on Wolf's bed just a week after being brought to Rocky Ridge Refuge. She "insisted," on caring for the lamb as though it were one of her puppies, according to Wolf. The lamb nursed (and cuddled) along with the rest of the pups. The final (and largest) piece of this snuggle puzzle is Krispin, a St. Bernard puppy who came to the refuge with a broken leg.

VIDEO: Why Do Puppies Yawn?

Lurch may have been Rocky Ridge Refuge's most famous resident of all time. The African Watusi steer holds the record for the largest circumference of horns -- ever. He was even recognized by Guinness World Records. Lurch was also the leader of Rocky Ridge's motley pack until his death in 2010, according to Wolf. His size never prevented him from befriending other refugees, including Isaiah the cat. Here, a young Lurch (with his horns yet to reach their 8-foot span) grazes while little Isaiah enjoys the ride.

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Finally, meet Janice Wolf herself. Here she is posing in 2012 for a photo with two of Rocky Ridge's refugees. The animal rescue organization was a life-long dream of hers. "I was born to do it," says Wolf, recalling that her first "rescue" was a pelican when she was just a toddler growing up in Florida. For more than 20 years she's used her experience as a veterinary technician and holistic medicine practitioner to help animals. You can follow the stories of her animals on the

Rocky Ridge Refuge website


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