Koalas are the unexpected subjects in recent studies of evolution in action. Ancient viral infections have left their mark in the DNA of many animals including humans. In the case of these Australia marsupials the Koala retrovirus, or KoRV began inserting itself into their genome just 40,000 years ago and is now passed from generation to generation. A group of scientists summarized their research in Cell on October 10th. When discussing koala genetics one of the researchers says “What they are going through is the process of what’s driven the evolution of every animal on the planet.”
At the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie and the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital workers tend to animals suffering from Chlamydia and retrovirus. With medical care most koalas are returned to the wild but, sadly, many return. Habitat loss and overcrowding by human development has severely stressed the Koala population; according to Suzi, if these iconic animals are to be saved the best place to start is with saving their habitat.