Male koala bear grunts woo ladies

2013-12-02 21:42
The photo that made Sam the Koala famous: Australian firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured Sam at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the region. (Mark Pardew, AP)

The photo that made Sam the Koala famous: Australian firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured Sam at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the region. (Mark Pardew, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Male koala bears may be tiny, but to woo the ladies they make a low-pitched grunt as deep as an elephant's call, thanks to an extra set of vocal cords, researchers said on Monday.

This previously unknown organ lies outside the voice box, or larynx, and is not known to exist in any other land mammal, said the study in the journal Current Biology.

Koalas seeking to mate make noises that sound like a mix between snoring and belching, something akin to a donkey's braying, explained lead researcher Benjamin Charlton of the University of Sussex.

"They are actually quite loud," he said.

The koala bear makes a bellowing call 20 times deeper than would be expected for an animal that weighs just eight kilograms on average, the study said.

But since these vocal cords lie where the oral and nasal cavities connect, they are not limited by the size constraints of the voice box, which typically makes for higher-pitched calls among smaller creatures.

These extra vocal cords are like two lips inside the soft palette, a location researchers described as "highly unusual."

After locating them, scientists performed an experiment using three koala cadavers "by sucking air through the pharynx and the larynx via the trachea, mimicking inhalation of air using the lungs," the study said.

A tiny camera was also inserted in the trachea to film the movement of the vocal cords during this time, and sound recordings captured the noises, confirming the organ's role in making the deep sounds.

Researchers said more study is needed to find out if female koalas have these vocal cords as well. Females are sometimes known to bellow deeply, though not as often as males.

Scientists are also taking a closer look at other mammals to see if this extra set of vocal cords is truly unique to koalas or if other creatures may be similarly equipped.

Read more on:    australia  |  animals

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.