Sugar Gliders

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By jwblackwell

Quiz

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9 Questions

What is the main purpose of the patagia in sugar gliders?

What is the taxonomy of the sugar glider?

What is the average weight of a female sugar glider?

What is the primary food source for sugar gliders?

What is the age of sexual maturity for male sugar gliders?

What is the primary means of communication in sugar gliders?

What is the average home range of sugar gliders?

What is the primary reason for opposition to keeping sugar gliders as pets in Australia?

What is the main threat to sugar gliders?

Summary

The Sugar Glider: Characteristics, Taxonomy, Distribution, Appearance, Anatomy, Biology and Behavior, Diet and Nutrition, and Reproduction

  • Sugar gliders are small, omnivorous, arboreal, and nocturnal gliding possums that are native to a small portion of southeastern Australia, in the regions of southern Queensland and most of New South Wales east of the Great Dividing Range.

  • The sugar glider is characterised by its pair of gliding membranes, known as patagia, which extend from its forelegs to its hindlegs. Gliding serves as an efficient means of reaching food and evading predators.

  • The taxonomy of the sugar glider has changed over time and it is now known that Petaurus breviceps actually comprises three cryptic species: the Krefft's glider (Petaurus notatus), found throughout most of eastern Australia and introduced to Tasmania, the savanna glider (Petaurus ariel) native to northern Australia, and the true P. breviceps, restricted to a small section of coastal forest in southern Queensland and most of New South Wales.

  • Sugar gliders are distributed in the coastal forests of southeastern Queensland and most of New South Wales. Their distribution extends to altitudes of 2000m in the eastern ranges.

  • The sugar glider has a squirrel-like body with a long, partially (weakly) prehensile tail. The length from the nose to the tip of the tail is about 24–30 cm (9–12 in), and males and females weigh 140 and 115 grams (5 and 4 oz) respectively.

  • Sugar gliders are seasonally adaptive omnivores with a wide variety of foods in their diet, mainly foraging in the lower layers of the forest canopy. They are opportunistic feeders and can be carnivorous, preying mostly on lizards and small birds.

  • Sugar gliders can tolerate ambient air temperatures of up to 40 °C (104 °F) through behavioural strategies such as licking their coat and exposing the wet area, as well as drinking small quantities of water. In cold weather, sugar gliders will huddle together to avoid heat loss, and will enter torpor to conserve energy.

  • Female sugar gliders have two ovaries and two uteri; they are polyestrous, meaning they can go into heat several times a year. The female has a marsupium (pouch) in the middle of her abdomen to carry offspring, and gives birth to one (19%) or two (81%) babies (joeys) per litter.

  • The age of sexual maturity in sugar gliders varies slightly between the males and females. Males reach maturity at 4 to 12 months of age, while females require from 8 to 12 months.

  • Gliding provides three dimensional avoidance of arboreal predators, and minimal contact with ground dwelling predators; as well as possible benefits in decreasing time and energy consumption spent foraging for nutrient poor foods that are irregularly distributed.

  • Sugar gliders are active at night, and they shelter during the day in tree hollows lined with leafy twigs. The average home range of sugar gliders is 0.5 hectares (1.2 acres), and is largely related to the abundance of food sources.

  • Sugar gliders may obtain up to half their daily water intake through drinking rainwater, with the remainder obtained through water heldThe Social Life and Conservation of Sugar Gliders

  • Sugar gliders are small, nocturnal marsupials that can glide through the air using flaps of skin between their front and hind legs.

  • They are highly social animals that live in family groups or colonies consisting of up to seven adults, plus the current season's young.

  • Sugar gliders engage in social grooming, which helps bond the colony and establish group identity.

  • Within social communities, there are two codominant males who suppress subordinate males, but show no aggression towards each other. Rank is established through scent marking.

  • Sugar gliders are one of the few species of mammals that exhibit male parental care.

  • Communication in sugar gliders is achieved through vocalisations, visual signals, and complex chemical odours.

  • Sugar gliders are protected as a native species in Australia, where conservation is enacted at the federal, state, and local levels.

  • In captivity, sugar gliders can suffer from calcium deficiencies if not fed an adequate diet, and may require a large amount of attention and environmental enrichment.

  • Sugar gliders are popular as exotic pets in several countries, but there is opposition to keeping native animals as pets in Australia.

  • Sugar gliders can be kept as pets in Victoria, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, but not in Western Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, or Tasmania.

  • DNA analysis indicates that captive gliders kept in the United States are Krefft's gliders, not sugar gliders.

  • Sugar gliders were not considered endangered under prior taxonomy, but newer taxonomic studies indicate that it has a small and restricted range, making it more sensitive to potential threats.

Description

How much do you know about sugar gliders? Take this quiz to test your knowledge on the characteristics, taxonomy, distribution, appearance, anatomy, biology and behavior, diet and nutrition, and reproduction of these cute and fascinating marsupials. Learn about their unique ability to glide through the air, their social life and conservation efforts, and the controversy surrounding them as exotic pets. Keywords: sugar glider, marsupial, gliding, social life, conservation, exotic pets.

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