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4 Animals That Eat Eucalyptus Leaves

Eucalyptus leaves are actually toxic when consumed, so they do not provide food for many animals. However, there are a few animals that are able to eat and digest these leathery, toxic leaves. This article details the four animals that include Eucalyptus leaves in their diets.

4 Animals That Eat Eucalyptus Leaves

Eucalyptus leaves come from the Eucalyptus tree, scientifically known as Eucalyptus globulus. This tree is native to Australia and Tasmania and is evergreen, meaning the leaves stay green and alive all year round. The Eucalyptus leaf is around 7 to 10 centimeters long.

It is a long, slender, and oval-shaped leaf that comes to a point at the end. The leaves feel waxy and are used for their medicinal properties all over the world. These properties include being an antiseptic as well as a treatment for coughs, colds, sore throats, and more.

The following list of animals are examples of species that are able to survive on a diet these leaves.

1. Koala

Koala on a log
Koala on a log | image by Mathias Appel via Flickr

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus

Koalas are probably the most well-known lovers of Eucalyptus leaves. Despite often being called koala bears, koalas are not actually bears at all. They are marsupials, which are mammals that have a pouch used to keep their babies safe while they develop.

Koalas can be found in southeastern and eastern Australia, living in the eucalyptus tree-filled forests. Koalas eat at least a pound of eucalyptus leaves per day. In fact, koalas eat so much eucalyptus that they often smell like the medicinal plant.

However, because the leaves are toxic, the koala’s digestive system has to break down the toxins, and that leaves behind very little nutrients for the koala. As a result, koalas sleep upwards of 18 hours per day to conserve energy. They spend most of their time sleeping in the trees, and when they are not sleeping, they are consuming eucalyptus leaves.

2. Greater Glider Possum

Greater glider possum on tree branch
Greater glider possum on tree branch | image by Mark Gillow via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Petauroides volans

The Greater Glider Possum is an endangered marsupial found in eastern Australia. These aptly named creatures use special membranes called the patagium that stretches between their ankle and elbow on each side to glide from tree to tree. Great Gliders can glide a horizontal distance of up to 328 feet!

These marsupials are solitary creatures, spending most of their time alone unless they have young and they are currently taking care of or during mating season. The Greater Glider is a member of the ringtail possum family, but unlike its relatives, it does not have a prehensile tail to help them grip tree branches. The Greater Glider’s diet mostly consists of eucalyptus leaves.

Greater Gliders have a specialized cecum pouch in the digestive system designed to break down the toxic eucalyptus leaves and extract the nutrients. Great gliders get most of their water from the eucalyptus leaves, so they do not often have to drink water directly from a source.

3. Common Wombat

Common wombat foraging
Common wombat foraging | image by Ron Knight via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Vombatus ursinus

The Common Wombat is an Australian native marsupial. Common wombats are stocky animals that can weigh up to 80 pounds. Like other marsupials, the common wombat gives birth to very tiny, underdeveloped young.

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After gestation, the babies crawl into their mother’s pouch to continue to grow and develop for around five months. The young can survive on their own, starting at about seven months old. Common wombats are also known as bare-nosed wombats or coarse-haired wombats.

The common wombat is very closely related to the koala. These two creatures share a habitat, and while eucalyptus leaves do not make up the majority of the common wombat’s diet, they do eat the leaves of younger eucalyptus trees.

Common wombats have a long digestive tract that allows them to break down the toxic leaves and extract a few nutrients from the leathery, waxy plant. These animals are nocturnal, so they come out at night to use their strong claws to dig for grasses, roots, and bark.

4. Ringtail Possum

Ringtail possum on plants
Ringtail possum on plants | image by r reeve via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Pseudocheirus peregrinus

Ringtail Possums can be found in eastern and southwestern Australia and Tasmania. Ringtail possums are marsupials that carry their young in pouches after gestation for over 4 months. These mammals are nocturnal, so they are most active at night.

They are arboreal and spend most of their lives in the trees, using their prehensile tails to help them grip the tree branches and carry materials for nest building. Unlike the other animals on this list, ringtail possums are not solitary. They live in small groups, usually consisting of one male, one or two females, and their offspring that are not ready to leave the nest.

Ringtail possums eat a variety of plants and flowers, including eucalyptus leaves. The highest population of ringtail possums can be found in areas where eucalyptus leaves are abundant.

Since some plants, like eucalyptus leaves, provide very little nutrients, ringtail possums have developed a habit of eating their own feces in order to digest food twice. This method allows the animal to get the maximum amount of nutrients from its food.