cover image Koala: A Natural History and an Uncertain Future

Koala: A Natural History and an Uncertain Future

Danielle Clode. Norton, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-324-03683-8

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.)