The Koala Genome Consortium - five years in the making

Australian Museum scientists are co-leading ground-breaking genomic research of one of Australia’s most iconic species – the koala.

The Koala Genome Consortium and the subsequent Koala Genome Project has been the culmination of five years of pioneering collaborative research, the outcomes of which have far-reaching and significant implications for the conservation of Australian koalas. Below we answer some of the more common questions asked about the project and its anticipated impacts.

Koala Genome - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Koala Genome Consortium and who is involved?

Why is the koala genome important?

What did the Koala Genome Project discover?

How does the koala genome explain their specialised, ‘toxic’ diet?

What does the koala genome tell us about their reproduction and development?

How will the koala genome help fight disease?

What are the conservation implications of the koala genome and what role does their evolution play?

What role does the Australian Museum play in this research?



This project was made possible by access to infrastructure provided by Bioplatforms Australia through funding from the Australian Government National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy; access to technology through NCI, Amazon Web Services and Pacific Biosciences. Stakeholders such as Featherdale Wildlife Park, The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, and Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital provided access to live animals; and funding was obtained from various grants including the Australian Museum Foundation, the Australian Research Council, and the NSW Environmental Trust.

Companion Papers

  • Johnson R.N. et al. (2018). Adaptation and conservation insights from the koala genome. Nature Genetics. 
  • Löber, U. et al. (2018). Degradation and remobilization of endogenous retroviruses by recombination during the earliest stages of a germ-line invasion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2018, 201807598; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1807598115
  • Brandies PA. et al. (2018). Disentangling the mechanisms of mate choice in a captive koala population. PeerJ 6:e5438 
  • Hobbs, M. et al. (2014). A transcriptome resource for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus): insights into koala retrovirus transcription and sequence diversity. BMC Genomics, 15:1.
  • Morris, K. M. et al. (2016). Characterisation of the immune compounds in koala milk using a combined transcriptomic and proteomic approach. Scientific Reports, 7, 6:35011. 
  • Morris, K. M. et al. (2014). The koala immunological toolkit: Sequence identification and comparison of key markers of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) immune response. Australian Journal of Zoology, 62(3): 195-199.
  • Cheng, Y. et al. (2017). Characterisation of MHC class I genes in the koala. Immunogenetics, 70(2): 125-133
  • Morris, K. M. et al. (2015). Identification, characterisation and expression analysis of natural killer receptor genes in Chlamydia pecorum infected koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). BMC Genomics, 16:796. 
  • Jones, E. A. et al. (2017). Characterization of the antimicrobial peptide family defensins in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), and tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). Immunogenetics, 69, 3:133-143. 
  • Neaves, L. E. et al. (2016). Phylogeography of the Koala, (Phascolarctos cinereus), and harmonising data to inform conservation. PLoS One 11, e0162207.
  • Dennison, S. et al. (2017). Population genetics of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. Australian Journal of Zoology64(6): 402-412.
  • Cui, J. et al. (2015). SNP marker discovery in koala TLR genes. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0121068. 
  • Bragg J. G. et al. (2016). Resources for phylogenomic analyses of Australian terrestrial vertebrates. Molecular Ecology Resources, 17(5): 869-876.
  • Duchêne, D. A. et al. (2017). Analysis of phylogenomic tree space resolves relationships among marsupial families. Systematic Biology, 67(3): 400-412.

Media contacts

Claire Vince Publicist, or 0468 726 910

Prof. Rebecca Johnson,


Prof. Rebecca Johnson , Director, Australian Museum Research Institute
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