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Fig Tree Pocket, Australia

Hernandez-Sanchez J.,R and D | Brumm J.,Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary | Timms P.,Queensland University of Technology | Timms P.,University of The Sunshine Coast | Beagley K.W.,Queensland University of Technology
Vaccine | Year: 2015

Objectives: To assess the impact of Chlamydia vaccination on survival of captive koalas, and to compare the incidence of lymphomas and neoplasias between vaccinated and unvaccinated koalas. Methods: Survival analysis using Cox and Weibull regressions on 54 vaccinated and 52 matched unvaccinated koalas, and chi-square contingency table for incidence of lymphomas/neoplasias. Results: Vaccination was found to have a significant positive effect on koala lifespan ( P= 0.03), with vaccinated koalas having a median lifespan of 12.25 years compared to 8.8 years for unvaccinated ones. The effect of sex on lifespan was not significant ( P= 0.31). The risk ratio of unvaccinated over vaccinated koalas was 2.2 with both Cox and Weibull regressions. There was no association between the incidence of lymphoma/neoplasias and vaccination status ( P= 0.33). Conclusions: Koalas vaccinated with a prototype Chlamydia vaccine may live longer than unvaccinated ones. There was no known Chlamydia infection among koalas, so our interpretation is that vaccination may have boosted the innate and adaptive immune systems to protect against a wide spectrum of bacteria, fungi and parasites. Vaccinated koalas did not show negative physiological effects of the vaccine, for example, the frequency of deaths due to lymphomas/neoplasias was the same in both vaccinated and unvaccinated animals. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Charlton B.D.,University of Vienna | Charlton B.D.,University of Sussex | Reby D.,University of Sussex | Ellis W.A.H.,Central Queensland University | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Examining how increasing distance affects the information content of vocal signals is fundamental for determining the active space of a given species' vocal communication system. In the current study we played back male koala bellows in a Eucalyptus forest to determine the extent that individual classification of male koala bellows becomes less accurate over distance, and also to quantify how individually distinctive acoustic features of bellows and size-related information degrade over distance. Our results show that the formant frequencies of bellows derived from Linear Predictive Coding can be used to classify calls to male koalas over distances of 1-50 m. Further analysis revealed that the upper formant frequencies and formant frequency spacing were the most stable acoustic features of male bellows as they propagated through the Eucalyptus canopy. Taken together these findings suggest that koalas could recognise known individuals at distances of up to 50 m and indicate that they should attend to variation in the upper formant frequencies and formant frequency spacing when assessing the identity of callers. Furthermore, since the formant frequency spacing is also a cue to male body size in this species and its variation over distance remained very low compared to documented inter-individual variation, we suggest that male koalas would still be reliably classified as small, medium or large by receivers at distances of up to 150 m. © 2012 Charlton et al.

Charlton B.D.,University of Vienna | Ellis W.A.H.,University of Queensland | McKinnon A.J.,Moggill Koala Hospital | Cowin G.J.,University of Queensland | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2011

Determining the information content of vocal signals and understanding morphological modifications of vocal anatomy are key steps towards revealing the selection pressures acting on a given species' vocal communication system. Here, we used a combination of acoustic and anatomical data to investigate whether male koala bellows provide reliable information on the caller's body size, and to confirm whether male koalas have a permanently descended larynx. Our results indicate that the spectral prominences of male koala bellows are formants (vocal tract resonances), and show that larger males have lower formant spacing. In contrast, no relationship between body size and the fundamental frequency was found. Anatomical investigations revealed that male koalas have a permanently descended larynx: the first example of this in a marsupial. Furthermore, we found a deeply anchored sternothyroid muscle that could allow male koalas to retract their larynx into the thorax. While this would explain the low formant spacing of the exhalation and initial inhalation phases of male bellows, further research will be required to reveal the anatomical basis for the formant spacing of the later inhalation phases, which is predictive of vocal tract lengths of around 50cm (nearly the length of an adult koala's body). Taken together, these findings show that the formant spacing of male koala bellows has the potential to provide receivers with reliable information on the caller's body size, and reveal that vocal adaptations allowing callers to exaggerate (or maximise) the acoustic impression of their size have evolved independently in marsupials and placental mammals. © 2011. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

Charlton B.D.,University of Vienna | Ellis W.A.H.,Central Queensland University | Brumm J.,Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary | Nilsson K.,Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary | Fitch W.T.,University of Vienna
Animal Behaviour | Year: 2012

Despite an extensive literature on the role of acoustic cues in mate choice little is known about the specific vocal traits that female mammals prefer. We used resynthesis techniques and playback experiments to examine the behavioural responses of oestrous female koalas, Phascolarctos cinereus, to male bellows in which a specific acoustic cue to body size, the formants, were modified to simulate callers of different body size. Oestrous females looked longer towards, and spent more time in close proximity to, loudspeakers broadcasting bellows simulating larger male koalas. These findings suggest that female koalas use formants (key components of human speech) to select larger males as mating partners, and represent the first evidence of a marsupial mating preference based on a vocal signal. More generally, these results indicate that intersexual selection pressures to lower formants and exaggerate size are present in a marsupial species, raising interesting questions about the evolutionary origins of formant perception. © 2012 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Charlton B.D.,University of Vienna | Ellis W.A.H.,University of Queensland | McKinnon A.J.,Moggill Koala Hospital | Brumm J.,Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

The ability to signal individual identity using vocal signals and distinguish between conspecifics based on vocal cues is important in several mammal species. Furthermore, it can be important for receivers to differentiate between callers in reproductive contexts. In this study, we used acoustic analyses to determine whether male koala bellows are individually distinctive and to investigate the relative importance of different acoustic features for coding individuality. We then used a habituation-discrimination paradigm to investigate whether koalas discriminate between the bellow vocalisations of different male callers. Our results show that male koala bellows are highly individualized, and indicate that cues related to vocal tract filtering contribute the most to vocal identity. In addition, we found that male and female koalas habituated to the bellows of a specific male showed a significant dishabituation when they were presented with bellows from a novel male. The significant reduction in behavioural response to a final rehabituation playback shows this was not a chance rebound in response levels. Our findings indicate that male koala bellows are highly individually distinctive and that the identity of male callers is functionally relevant to male and female koalas during the breeding season. We go on to discuss the biological relevance of signalling identity in this species' sexual communication and the potential practical implications of our findings for acoustic monitoring of male population levels. © 2011 Charlton et al.

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