You can't help but like the sugar glider. These cute, unique and very tiny animals cause only positive emotions. They have an extraordinary appearance, good disposition. Such animals are often kept at home by exotic lovers. However, acquiring such a pet without carefully familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of the sugar flying squirrel is not the best solution. You can learn more about the habits, appearance and other nuances of this animal below.
Origin of the species and description
The sugar marsupial flying squirrel belongs to the family of marsupial flying squirrels. This animal is called differently: pygmy flying squirrel, flying squirrel, flying possum. In Latin, this animal is called Petaurus breviceps, and in English — Sugar Glide. The marsupial flying squirrel is called sugar flying squirrel because of its special love for sweets. This animal loves food, which contains large amounts of sugar, glucose.
Video: Sugar flying squirrel
Also, this animal is often called the Australian flying squirrel. This name comes from the place where it lives. With squirrels, these animals have little in common. The main difference from squirrels are the dimensions of the animal and the fur membrane. Flying squirrels are usually much smaller than squirrels, and the membrane completely connects the legs of the flying squirrels on the sides. A similar fur membrane is found in the Philippine woolly wing. It is she who plays the role of the main device for short flights.
Interesting fact: The fur membrane is an effective tool for flying. Thanks to her, the flying squirrel can fly about a hundred meters through the air. At the same time, in flight, the animal can turn one hundred and eighty degrees.
Sugar flying squirrels have a unique appearance. It is quite difficult to confuse this animal with anyone else.
You can recognize a flying possum by three characteristic features:
- fur membrane. It is this membrane that will never allow you to confuse a flying squirrel with an ordinary squirrel, with which they have a slight similarity;
- large ears (compared to the dimensions of the whole body). The ears of the animal are quite mobile;
- large dark eyes. Such eyes make the animal very cute.
Interesting fact: Sugar gliders don't fly, they glide. However, this does not prevent them from covering sufficiently large distances in this way. They can move through the air at a distance of up to one hundred meters. For a small animal that rarely exceeds thirty centimeters in size, this is quite a large indicator.
Appearance and features
Sugar possum is a very tiny marsupial animal. Their closest relatives are marsupial opossums. On average, the head and body of this animal reaches a length of only fourteen centimeters, and the tail is about fifteen centimeters. Therefore, the total length of the animal rarely exceeds thirty centimeters. The weight is also small – about one hundred and forty grams.
The animal has pronounced ears, large dark eyes and a pink nose. Vision is perfectly adapted to night vision, and the ears are quite mobile. The color of the marsupial flying squirrel is inconspicuous. The fur has an ashy color. In some places on the body of the animal there are brown stripes, and the throat and abdomen are painted in a whitish hue. In nature, there are also sugar flying squirrels with a rather bright and unusual color – yellow, white or brown. The rarest are albinos.
Interesting fact: The tail of the flying squirrel stands out from the rest of the body. It is fluffy, sometimes longer than the body. The tail is not only beautiful, but also functional. It helps the animal to control the direction of flight, as well as hold and carry various objects. Most often, the animal uses it to carry branches to build a nest.
Females and males of flying squirrels are quite easy to distinguish. Females have a slightly different body structure. In the abdomen, they have a small “bag” in the skin fold. This anatomical feature helps females to easily carry the baby. A feature of males and females are the different sounds they make. These animals communicate with each other using a variety of sounds. With the help of sounds, animals give signals to each other, for example, their alarm signal is very similar to the barking of a small dog.
Where does the sugar marsupial flying squirrel live?
The sugar glider is a rather numerous species, but it is not as common on the planet as many other species of mammals. The natural habitat of flying squirrels is quite small – these are Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, Tasmania and the islands adjacent to these countries. At the same time, flying squirrels are not indigenous to all territories. So, they were artificially brought to Tasmania. This happened in 1835. Previously, such animals were not mentioned there, and scientists did not find characteristic remains and traces in the soil.
Sugar gliders always live in small groups. They are family animals. One group can have about twelve individuals. The main ones in such groups are always males. Each individual group lives in its own territory. In fact, these animals divide the entire territory into separate parts. One or another group lives on each part, the males of which carefully guard and mark the territory. To mark the territory of their “family”, males use various methods: urine, feces, odorous glands.
Interesting fact: Marsupial flying squirrels are very common in their natural habitat. However, despite the numerous populations, it is quite difficult to notice such an animal during the day. Possums are predominantly nocturnal. Only in the north of the habitat of these animals are often noticed during the daytime.
A tropical climate and dense forests are suitable for life for sugar marsupial flying squirrels. Animals spend most of their time on trees. They are rare guests on earth. When choosing a habitat, these animals pay attention to the presence of a large number of eucalyptus trees. However, now this factor is no longer so important. Sugar flying squirrels have adapted to life in other types of forests.
Now you know where the sugar flying squirrel lives. Let's see what it eats.
What does the sugar glider eat?
Sugar gliders have a good appetite. Their diet depends on several factors: place of residence, climatic conditions, season. In summer, their diet is more varied.
- sweet fruits;
- tree sap;
- small invertebrates.
In summer, protein foods predominate in volume. Animals eat a lot of insects and invertebrates. The rest of the food fades into the background and makes up no more than thirty percent of the diet. In winter, animals have to switch mainly to plant foods. They eat eucalyptus juice, acacia, sweet fruits. To extract juice, flying squirrels have to gnaw through the bark of trees. However, it is not difficult for them. Animals have strong teeth and a powerful jaw, although it is small in size. Regardless of the season, flying squirrels need about eleven grams of food per day. At the same time, these animals are quite prudent. They always save food for a rainy day. Usually dried insects go into stocks.
If there is a lack of food, to which the sugar glider is accustomed, then small chicks, tiny lizards, bird eggs begin to enter the diet. If it is problematic to get such food, then the possum may even fall into temporary hibernation. In this case, all metabolic processes will slow down very much, and the body temperature will drop to eleven degrees.
Interesting fact: Sugar glider is a tiny but very useful animal. It kills a huge number of insects that cause great harm to trees and other vegetation. In addition, these animals adore pollen and are excellent at pollinating various plants.
As you know, such marsupial flying squirrels are often kept at home. In this case, they are fed with the following foods: fresh vegetables and fruits, mice, omelettes, insects, yogurt and other foods high in calcium.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The sugar marsupial flying squirrel is a rather active animal, but mainly in the evening and at night. Most of the time, these animals are engaged in moving from one tree to another. The fur membrane helps them with this. With its help, tiny flying squirrels can carry out gliding flights. Animals can control the direction of flight with paws and a fluffy tail. Sometimes possums carry various objects in their tails, for example, small twigs for a nest or food.
At night, such animals hunt, build nests. During the daytime, they rest. Usually flying squirrels sleep in their houses, which are lined with leaves or twigs. Twigs and leaves are held together by animals with their own urine, which exudes a very strong smell. This smell not only strengthens the nest, but also serves as a territory marker. This is how a group of flying squirrels mark the boundaries of their possessions so that strangers do not violate them.
Sugar gliders live in small groups. Typically, such groups include about twelve adults. Every group has an alpha male. Everyone obeys him. The character of flying squirrels is quite friendly. There are practically no conflicts within the groups. However, such animals quickly change in behavior if there is a stranger nearby. They behave quite aggressively with strangers, they can get into fights.
Social structure and reproduction
Groups of sugar gliders tend to have more females than males. The reproduction of future offspring is usually carried out by one male – the most important one, whom everyone obeys. The process of reproduction of these animals most often occurs during the period of insects, that is, at the beginning of summer. Males can fertilize females as early as five months old. However, one year is considered the best age for mating.
Having become pregnant, the female will carry the babies for another sixteen days. Marsupial flying squirrels are not very prolific. At one time, the female gives birth to only two cubs. They are born blind, absolutely helpless. At birth, their weight does not exceed one hundred and ninety mg. Immediately after giving birth, small flying squirrels move into the female's pouch and spend about seventy days there. During this time, the limbs are fully formed in babies.
However, even after seventy days, the crumbs are not ready for independent living. For some time they are under the care of their parents. However, they can already live in the nest. In the process of development, their eyes open, the skills of independent food production appear. And only after receiving such knowledge, flying squirrels can live their lives and leave their mother's nest. But most babies still prefer to continue to live next to their mother for several years.
Natural enemies of sugar marsupial gliders
Sugar gliders do not have many natural enemies. This is due to several facts. Firstly, these animals rarely appear on earth. For this reason, they are not available to foxes, wolves, and other four-legged predators. Secondly, such babies skillfully disguise themselves between tree branches with the help of their specific, inconspicuous color. They do not attract much attention, especially during the day, because most flying squirrels sleep peacefully in their nest during the daytime.
The natural and most dangerous enemies of sugar marsupial squirrels include:
- snakes. For example, pythons;
- feathered predators. Very often, flying squirrels become victims of rufous needle-footed owls, eagle owls and Australian barn owls;
- martens, ferrets, coyotes;
- domestic cats.
It is these predators who often manage to catch a tiny and nimble flying squirrel. However, it is not so easy. Flying squirrels have excellent hearing and vision. They know how to hide from natural enemies, even from the worst – owls. They manage to hide from owls if they abruptly and unexpectedly change the trajectory of their flight with the help of their paws and tail. It is extremely difficult to call a person a natural enemy of flying squirrels. People rarely see this animal in the daytime, and marsupial squirrels live very high in the trees.
Species population and status
Sugar gliders have a conservation status of Least Concern. On the territory of their natural habitat, their populations are quite numerous. These animals were able to maintain a high population level due to their excellent adaptability. Previously, sugar flying squirrels lived only in eucalyptus forests. Over time, the number of such forests has decreased significantly. Such a fact could have a detrimental effect on the possum population. However, this did not happen. Small animals were able to adapt to life in other types of forest.
Today, such flying squirrels can live wherever there is a sufficient food supply. They are found in primary, secondary, degrading forests, on various plantations and even in rural gardens. For this reason, sugar marsupial flying squirrels do not belong to species that are threatened with complete extinction in the near future.
Their natural endurance and long life expectancy also positively affect the population of these animals. With enough food and normal climatic conditions, marsupial flying squirrels can live for about fifteen years. This factor makes them even more attractive as pets. Possums will be able to please their owners for much longer than ordinary domestic rodents.
The sugar glider is a very cute, tiny animal. In the wild, it is found only in tropical countries, and as a pet it is distributed throughout the Earth. These animals are distinguished by good disposition, fast taming, and longevity. The population of such flying squirrels throughout the natural habitat is quite high due to their good adaptability.