Flying mouse, Pygmy feathertail glider, Pygmy glider, Pygmy gliding possum, Pygmy phalanger
The Feathertail glider is endemic only to Australia. As a matter of fact, this animal is the smallest gliding possum and one of the smallest known gliding mammals. The animal is so called due to its tail, which looks like a bird's feather, being composed of long, stiff hairs, pointing down on both sides. The short fur of the possum is brown-grey in color. The thick membranes between the elbows and knees help the animal when gliding, while the serrated pads on its toes allow the glider to easily stick to smooth surfaces.
The Feathertail glider is a native Australian species, found across much of the eastern and south-eastern parts of Australia. Its range stretches from Cape York (Queensland), reaching south-eastern South Australia. The animal has also been spotted on Fraser Island, located off the southern coast of Queensland. The feathertail glider can live in a wide variety of habitats from tall open forests and sclerophyll forests to woodlands, but usually prefers wet and old-growth forests to dry or regenerating areas. This possum can also be seen near suburban areas.
The Feathertail gliders are social animals, typically forming small groups of 2 - 5 individuals. However, there have been known larger nesting groups of up to 30 gliders as well as feeding groups of up to 40 animals at flowering trees. These animals are mainly nocturnal, coming out from their nests at dusk to find food. Their nests are spherical constructions, made out of leaves and bark fibres, usually located in small tree holes, human-made nesting boxes or telephone junction boxes. In order to save energy, these possums often undergo periods of torpor, when the metabolic rate and temperature of their body lower. When it gets too cold, these animals conserve heat by curling into a ball, wrapping their tail around themselves or huddling together with conspecifics.
Feathertail gliders have polyandrous mating system. This is when a female mates with multiple males. Populations in southeastern Australia breed from July to January, yielding 2 litters of 3 - 4 young, which can be sired by different males. Gestation period lasts for about 65 - 100 days. The female suckles her offspring, which remain in her pouch for 60 - 65 days. By the end of this period, the female leaves her young in the nest. The species is capable of embryonic diapause. Thus, as soon as yielding offspring, a female glider mates again. And by the time her current young are weaned from the pouch in 100 days, the new embryos become dormant, suggesting that the next litter is born as soon as the previous one is weaned. Meanwhile, newly weaned gliders remain with their mother as the next litter is raised. Sexual maturity is reached at 12 - 18 months old in males, and within 8 months - in females.
In some parts of their range, these animals suffer from logging of stands of mature forest. They are also threatened by decline of trees with suitable hollows, which they use as nesting sites. On the other hand, these gliders are hunted by cats and foxes with cats, having destroyed entire colonies of the Feathertail gliders.
According to IUCN, the Feathertail glider is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, this species is currently classified as least Concern (LC), and its numbers are stable.