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Sleeping In

Koala Day

May 3

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Koalas in the trees, taking their ease,
Napping all day with the greatest of ease.
Twenty hours, or more, they peacefully snore,
Dreaming of eucalyptus galore!

But in dreams they're dancing with style,
But awake, they'd rather just rest on the pile.
A life so sleepy, simple, and neat,
Oh, to be a koala, isn’t that sweet?"

Feeling short on sleep? Well then, you might envy koalas, which are champions of rest, sleeping for 20-22 hours each day according to research. This extensive slumber allows them only a few hours for munching on eucalyptus leaves, their exclusive diet that requires a specialized digestive system to detoxify the poisonous oils! Interestingly, despite their placid, sleepy nature, koalas can vocalize loudly during mating season, with males emitting a surprisingly deep and loud bellow that belies their serene demeanor. With all that sleep and food foraging, very few hours are left for Scottish Dancing, including this eye-opening reel, not for the sleepy! With no time to rest, all three couples are busy with setting, crossing, double triangles, and set-and-links the entire dance! Dance now, sleep later! 😴 💤 🐨 🐨 🐨

Sleeping In

In the late 1700s, English-speaking settlers stumbled upon a unique creature in the lush forests of Australia that resembled a small, gray bear but with a distinctive pouch. This intriguing animal was named Phascolarctos cinereus by scientists, a name derived from Greek words meaning “ash-gray pouched bear.” At first glance, early naturalists categorized the koala based on its superficial resemblance to bears, overlooking the significant clue of the pouch, a hallmark of marsupials.

The 18th-century depiction of what was initially called a koala bear shows an animal that sparked curiosity among European settlers and scientists alike. According to Live Science, while koalas share the class Mammalia with bears, indicating that both are mammals, their similarities end there. Koalas belong to the infraclass Marsupialia, which includes animals that give birth to partially developed young who then continue growing in the safety of a pouch. This reproductive strategy is a sharp contrast to that of bears and highlights the koala’s closer evolutionary ties to other Australian marsupials like kangaroos and wombats.

Koalas, despite their bear-like appearance and misleading common name, are not bears. The term "koala" itself, adopted over time from the Aboriginal Darug language, signifies the animal’s distinct identity separate from bears. Historical documents, such as those referenced by the Oxford English Dictionary from as early as 1808, note the use of "koala" to describe this marsupial, although early writings may have misread the term as "koola."

Interestingly, the term "bear" persisted as a part of the koala’s scientific name, Phascolarctos, derived from the Greek arktos, meaning bear. This nomenclature has never been corrected, leaving a lingering misnomer even in scientific circles. Technically, koalas are still called bears in scientific taxonomy, despite their clear distinctions from true bear species.

Beyond their taxonomy, koalas are fascinating for their specialized diet of eucalyptus leaves, which are toxic to most animals. They have a highly developed sense of smell that allows them to select the least toxic leaves. This diet requires a slow metabolism, leading koalas to sleep up to 18 hours a day to conserve energy. Their solitary nature and vocalizations, including a distinctive bellow, underscore their unique adaptations to life in the eucalypt forests of Australia, making the koala not just a curiosity but a symbol of Australia’s unique biodiversity.

To see koalas (probably) sleeping, click the koalas for the San Diego Zoo Koala cam!

Sleeping In

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Sleeping In

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