The Weird Thing Koalas Have In Common With Humans

If asked to give examples of animals with whom we share specific traits as humans, most of us will list off the classic chimpanzees, gorillas, maybe even creatures like dolphins, who are highly intelligent and live extremely complex social and emotional lives. Koalas, however, probably wouldn't be high on the list.

But we actually have more in common with them than you'd think. And because of these similarities, the cute little animals who look like a mad scientist imbued life into a cuddly teddy bear and then got it stoned can actually teach us things about our own bodies and how we can better take care of them. The New York Times, for example, notes that one thing humans have in common with koalas is that both species can contract and suffer the agonizing symptoms of chlamydia. Researchers are studying chlamydia in koalas, not only to help alleviate the animals' suffering, but also to help develop a vaccine for humans. But the STD that links us with koalas isn't the only thing we have in common with these cute and cuddly Aussies. (Neither is it very weird. Chlamydia is extremely common in the animal kingdom, having been identified in fish and frogs, even poor little parakeets.) Let's take a look into the truly weird thing we have in common with koalas.

Whose fingerprints are these? A koala whodunnit from down under

The other thing we have in common with koalas may be weird, but at least it's not another painful disease. According to New Scientist, koalas have fingerprints that are all but identical to our own. But no koala fingerprint is exactly identical to any human's, of course. Like ours, each koala fingerprint is completely unique. Still, they are so similar to ours that it's possible that Australian police may have unidentified prints sitting in databases that actually belong to koalas, not humans. New Scientist reported this possibility in 1996, though the expert they consulted did say that the chances of koala prints being booked as evidence are "extremely unlikely."

The reason it's weird that koalas have human-like fingerprints is because our last link on the evolutionary tree lived over 100 million years ago. (Scientific American notes that our last common ancestor with chimps was at most 7 million years ago.) Scientists haven't been able to pin down exactly why koalas have fingerprints (or why we do, for that matter), but it is believed that the ridges of fingerprints help increase sensitivity. Famously picky eaters, Koalas could have evolved fingerprints to help them identify the best eucalyptus leaves by way of feeling their texture. Australian criminals may clearly see how the little bears' fingerprints can benefit them. Just blame it on the koala!