Koalas calling

Oct 07, 2008

With the help of mobile phone technology, UQ researchers are set to decipher the distinctive grunting noises made by male koalas during the spring mating season.

Dr Bill Ellis, from UQ's School of Integrative Biology, and Dr Sean Fitzgibbon, from the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, along with Professor Paul Roe and Mr Richard Mason from QUT's IT department, will combine their skills in order to eavesdrop on the koalas from St Bees Island, located off the coast of Mackay.

“We are studying whether males are talking to other males, or to females, and how vocalisations might stimulate breeding behaviour in female koalas,” Dr Ellis said.

“This collaboration has opened this area of research up for us and we are extremely excited about the data we have been collecting.”

Dr Ellis and Dr Fitzgibbon have tagged koalas on St Bees with GPS (Global Positioning System) collars that record their location every two hours, and solar powered remote sound sensors have been placed around the island.

Koala bellows are transmitted using Telstra's Next G network to the QUT site, where the research team monitors the duration and frequency of koala calls.

“For the first time, we are able to monitor the spatial response of all females (and other males) to the vocalizations generated by koalas at our site,” Dr Ellis said.

“Remote sensors and GPS loggers mean we don't disturb the koalas while collecting high quality data, and the real-time nature of the data makes it all the more exciting.”

Funded through the centre for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species at San Diego Zoo, Microsoft, Telstra and UQ, this research has the potential to uncover a great deal about the breeding habits of koalas.

“Our preliminary data from GPS collars indicate that at the time approximately corresponding to when we think a female conceives, she shows exaggerated movement,” Dr Ellis said.

“This might indicate females go looking for males.

“Since the young females stay closer to their mum's home range, this makes sense – The females go to find an unrelated male.

“The question is, what has bellowing got to do with this, which is where the new monitoring technology should be able to help.”

Provided by UQ

Explore further: Shark's unique trek could help save the species

Related Stories

Koalas' bellows boast about size

Sep 29, 2011

Koalas have a well-earned reputation for being dopey. Sleeping 19 hours out of every 24, and feeding for 3 of the remaining 5 hours, there doesn't seem to be much time for anything else in their lethargic lifestyle: that ...

Recommended for you

Shark's unique trek could help save the species

3 hours ago

Her name is Jiffy Lube2, a relatively small shortfin mako shark that, like others of her kind, swims long distances every day in search of prey and comfortable water temperatures.

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Jul 03, 2015

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

The math of shark skin

Jul 03, 2015

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.