Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Leaf oxalate content of Eucalyptus spp. and its implications for koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) with oxalate nephrosis

K. N. Speight A B E , W. G. Breed A , W. Boardman B , D. A. Taggart C , C. Leigh A , B. Rich D and J. I. Haynes A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

B School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Roseworthy campus, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5371, Australia.

C Discipline of Ecology, Evolution and Landscape Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

D Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: natasha.speight@adelaide.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 61(5) 366-371 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO13049
Submitted: 19 June 2013  Accepted: 12 October 2013   Published: 6 November 2013

Abstract

Oxalate nephrosis is a leading disease of the Mount Lofty Ranges koala population in South Australia, but the cause is unclear. In other herbivorous species, a common cause is high dietary oxalate; therefore this study aimed to determine the oxalate content of eucalypt leaves. Juvenile, semimature and mature leaves were collected during spring from eucalypt species eaten by koalas in the Mount Lofty Ranges and compared with those from Moggill, Queensland, where oxalate nephrosis has lower prevalence. Total oxalate was measured as oxalic acid by high-performance liquid chromatography. The oxalate content of eucalypts was low (<1% dry weight), but occasional Mount Lofty leaf samples had oxalate levels of 4.68–7.51% dry weight. Mount Lofty eucalypts were found to be higher in oxalate than those from Queensland (P < 0.001). In conclusion, dietary oxalate in eucalypt leaves is unlikely to be the primary cause of oxalate nephrosis in the Mount Lofty koala population. However, occasional higher oxalate levels could cause oxalate nephrosis in individual koalas or worsen disease in those already affected. Further studies on the seasonal variation of eucalypt leaf oxalate are needed to determine its role in the pathogenesis of oxalate nephrosis in koalas.

Additional keywords: kidney, oxalates, Phascolarctidae.


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