Physiology

Discovery of organ explains koalas’ super-bass notes

Photo by Benjamin Charlton.

Photo by Benjamin Charlton.

Throat structure explains why male mating calls are bizarrely deeper than expected for the animal’s size.

For such diminutive animals, male koalas have an uncannily deep voice. The pitch of their bellowing mating call is 20 times lower than would be anticipated for their size, and more like something you would hear from an elephant, for instance.

Benjamin Charlton, a biologist at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, wanted to know what gave these marsupial Barry Whites their rumbling bass voice. “The first time I heard a koala bellow, I was genuinely amazed that an animal this small could produce such a sound,” he says. Read more in Nature.