Feathertail Glider

Feathertail Glider

Flying mouse, Pygmy feathertail glider, Pygmy glider, Pygmy gliding possum, Pygmy phalanger

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Acrobates pygmaeus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
4-7 yrs
WEIGHT
12 g
LENGTH
6.5-8 cm

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.

Distibution

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.

Feathertail Glider habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

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.

Diet and Nutrition

These possums are omnivorous, feeding upon a wide variety of food, including insects, fruit, nectar, pollen, fungi, seeds, sap, gum and honeydew.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
July-January
PREGNANCY DURATION
65-100 days
BABY CARRYING
3-4 joyes
INDEPENDENT AGE
100 days
BABY NAME
joey

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.

Population

Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Feathertail Glider is not the best-known Australian animal. However, it was featured on the Australian one-cent, which was in circulation until 1991.
  • Due to its feather-like tail, the possum can glide, steer, brake and anchor itself.
  • When travelling it trees, these possums glide up to 20 meters at a time from one tree to another. During these glides, they use thin membranes between their elbows to knees known as "gliding membranes".
  • Gliding is an important activity for the feathertails, helping them remain in trees, where they find shelter from terrestrial predators. The feathertails glide up to 5 times per hours.
  • The scientific name of the species is "Acrobates pygmaeus", meaning ‘pygmy acrobat’. Indeed, these animals are able to perform amazing acrobatic tricks, gliding over tree trunks both in a direct and spiral path.
  • Due to their serrated toe pads, the Feathertail gliders are accomplished climbers, able to stick to trees and even known to cling onto vertical glass windows.
  • They can also climb up glass surfaces as well as smooth bark of some eucalypt species.
  • These animals favor warm nesting sites, often choosing meter boxes, telephone boxes and roof/walls of houses.

References

1. Feathertail Glider Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feathertail_glider
2. Feathertail Glider on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/40584/0

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