Mahogany Glider

Mahogany Glider

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Petaurus gracilis
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
5-6 yrs
WEIGHT
310-500 g
LENGTH
23-28 cm

First described in 1883, these animals were considered subspecies of squirrel glider for about a century until 1989, when they were ‘rediscovered’ in the wild. Then, in 1993, the examination of skins and skulls of old and newly discovered specimens increased the level of this species. Mahogany gliders exhibit a thin gliding membrane, covered with fur and extending from their front feet to the ankle of their hind feet. This gliding membrane looks like a wavy line, stretching along the animal's body when not in use. Their feet resemble hands by their form and shape. Meanwhile, hind feet of these animals have enlarged, opposable big toes. The tail is long and densely covered with fur. Mahogany gliders use their tail to balance when gliding.

Distibution

The range of Mahogany gliders is restricted to tiny coastal area between Ingham and Tully (Northern Queensland, Australia). They inhabit open forests, dominated by a variety of flowering plants, which they consume throughout the year.

Mahogany Glider  habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Mahogany gliders are generally solitary and nocturnal animals. Each individual has its own home range, which can be up to 23 hectares. Each glider uses more than 10 dens during a season. Their dens are typically located in hollows in Eucalyptus and bloodwood trees and paved with thick underlay of leaves. During the daytime hours, the animals sleep in these dens. They spend their nighttime hours looking for food within their territory. Males and females forage separately and sleep in different dens. Mahogany gliders are tree-dwelling animals. When moving among the treetops, they usually glide with their membrane outstretched. These animals are able to glide up to 60 meters at a time. Mahogany gliders are extremely silent species, remaining virtually silent even when defending their home range from intruders. They usually vocalize only once during the night, giving out a nasal "na-when" sound for less than 10 minutes before they fall silent again.

Diet and Nutrition

These nectivorous and folivorous animals have a rather diverse diet, consisting of insects, fruits, grass, nectar and pollen. Mahogany gliders are also known to favor tree sap, and particularly, the sap of some eucalypts.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-October
BABY CARRYING
1-2 joeys
INDEPENDENT AGE
4-5 months
BABY NAME
joey

Mahogany gliders are usually monogamous (one male mates with one female exclusively), although extra-pair mating has been observed. Mahogany gliders breed from April to October. Females usually yield a single litter of 1 - 2 young per year. However, sometimes the second litter may be produced, when the first litter is lost before coming out of the pouch. Mother gliders are very careful to their young, carrying them in their pouch for 4 - 5 months, when young are weaned. Sexual maturity is reached within 12 - 18 months.

Population

Population threats

Becoming independent, young gliders disperse to find their own territories and often face lack of favorable habitat. Furthermore, the primary life condition for these animals is dense vegetation cover, which is affected by roads, railway lines, electric power lines as well as land clearing. Mahogany gliders are entangled in barbed wire fencing, hit on roads and hunted by cats. However, the most notable threat to the overall population of this species is degradation, destruction and fragmentation of their natural habitat.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, no estimate of population size is available for the Mahogany glider. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN), and its numbers are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Consuming pollen and nectar of various flowering plants, Mahogany gliders transfer pollen on their fur and disperse it throughout the area of their range. These animals serve as the key pollinators of eucalyptus and banksia.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • There are two reasons why the Mahogany glider is called so: firstly, it is colored with rich brown mahogany color; secondly, it lives in the area, dominated by the swamp mahogany tree.
  • The scientific name of this species is ‘Petaurus gracilis’, meaning 'slender rope dancer'.
  • Due to their ability to glide over trees, these arboreal animals easily move around in trees and do not have to descent to the ground, where they are highly vulnerable.
  • The most common form of communication between these animals is scent marking. In the front part of their head, gliders possess scent glands (which are found on the front of the chest in males). In order to convey information, a glider rubs its scent glands on trees within its home range.
  • When moving from one tree to another, these agile animals are able to glide up to 30 meters, using their long and densely furred tails to balance when landing.

References

1. Mahogany Glider Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahogany_glider
2. Mahogany Glider on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/16727/0

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