Koalas Hug Trees to Lower Body Temperature, Study Says

August 15, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. sprawl /sprɔl/ (v.) – to lie down flat with the arms and legs extended in a relaxed way
Example: Koalas often sprawl while sleeping on a tree branch.

2. adverse /ædˈvɜrs/ (adj.) – having negative or undesirable traits
Example: The animals displayed adverse behavior during the experiment.

3. heat wave /hit weɪv/ (n.) – refers to a prolonged period of intensely hot weather
Example: The farmers devised different ways to prevent the heat wave from destroying their crops.

4. den /dɛn/ (n.) – a place where a wild animal stays or lives
Example: The bear returned to its den after hunting for food.

5. pant /pænt/ (v.) – to breathe quickly with an open mouth
Example: The dog panted after an hour of exercise.


Read the text below.
Scientists from Australia discovered that koalas [koh-AH-luhs] sprawl on trees not just to rest but also to lower their body temperature.

A group of researchers from the University of Melbourne was studying the adverse effects of climate change on Australian animals when they noticed the koalas’ unusual behavior.

The team observed koalas in French Island, which is located southeast of Melbourne. They used thermal-imaging cameras to record the temperatures of different tree species and their surroundings. They found that tree trunks and thick branches with lower temperatures keep the koalas cool during a heat wave. They also noticed that aside from hugging trees, many koalas lay flat on lower tree branches, which is not their usual posture.

Michael Kearney [kuhr-nee], one of the study’s authors, cited that koalas are easily exposed to hot weather because they usually stay on trees. Other tree-dwelling mammals like possums build dens inside tree trunks to avoid overexposure to heat.

Koalas can also regulate their temperature by licking their fur and by panting. However, this method can dehydrate them, especially when the temperature is very high.

On the other hand, the researchers found that trees have significantly lower temperature, even during hot weather. This makes trees a good option for koalas to stay cool without losing water. The team also found that bigger trees that don’t produce fruit tend to provide cooler temperatures for the koalas.

Kearney hopes that further research can be done to help koalas and other animals adjust to their habitat and survive climate change.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why do you think it is important to help animals like the koalas adjust to their habitat?
·         If you were part of the Australian government, how will you solve the koalas’ air temperature problem?

Discussion B

·         What do you think will happen to animals and humans if climate change worsens? Kindly discuss.
·         What can humans do to reduce the effects of climate change?

August 15, 2014