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Various sources online (including a frequent copy-pasta disparaging the animal) claim that koalas will not recognize eucalyptus leaves as food if they are cleanly laid out on a table in front of them, instead of attached to a tree.

  • University of Melbourne Scientific Scribbles Blog

    If you gather a bunch of Eucalyptus leaves, which the koalas eat, and put them on a plate in front of the koala, the koala won’t know what to do with them; they just sit there and gawk at it.

    They lack the ability to discern that it’s still food given that the leaves have moved off the tree and onto a new source that they’re unfamiliar with.

I know that they have a very small, unwrinkled brain, but what source is there regarding this peculiar dietary behavior?

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    @Feryll: I am not sure this dietary behaviour is that "peculiar". I recall a caged cockatoo that loved to be given a whole almond, which it would shell with its beak to get to the nut to eat, but when handed an pre-shelled almond nut, would discard it with disinterest.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 11, 2019 at 8:02
  • This claim is presented in the textbook Life of Marsupials from 2005, but I don't know what their source is either.
    – Is Begot
    Feb 11, 2019 at 18:39
  • This is a comment since I have no source but myself. Yes, I've seen a koala pull eucalyptus leaves off a kiddie plate placed out for it at a conservation park near Adelaide, Australia. It approached, slowly took the leaves and ate them.
    – Mikey
    Feb 19, 2019 at 22:09
  • I just asked this question in pets.se and something that i think has bearing is that there is a video of a koala drinking water from a bottle -- but their name means "doesn't drink." If they have enough behavioral flexibility to drink water this implies to me that they might also be flexible enough to eat picked leaves.
    – releseabe
    Jan 6 at 10:47

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