Southern flying squirrels are considerably small, arboreal rodents. They have grey-brown fur on top with darker flanks and are a cream color underneath. They have large dark eyes and a flattened tail. They have a furry membrane called a patagium that extends between the front and rear legs and is used to glide through the air.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
An omnivore is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and ani...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust and is employed by gliding animals. Birds in particular use gliding flight to m...
Zoochory animals are those that can disperse plant seeds in several ways. Seeds can be transported on the outside of vertebrate animals (mostly mam...
Scansorial animals are those that are adapted to or specialized for climbing. Many animals climb not only in tress but also in other habitats, such...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Torpor is a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually marked by a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate. Torpor enables...
Polygynandry is a mating system in which both males and females have multiple mating partners during a breeding season.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The natural range of Southern flying squirrels is considerably large, stretching from southeastern Canada to the eastern United States, Mexico, and Honduras. Their preferred habitat is forest, dominated by maple, beech, hickory, oak, poplar, and other seed-producing hardwoods. They also favor mixed conifer/deciduous forests and sometimes occur in heavily wooded suburban regions.
Southern flying squirrels are nocturnal and highly social animals and may fly and forage together in large groups. Additionally, they often aggregate together in dens, especially as seasonal temperatures decline in order to conserve energy. These dens are their main dwellings, along with deserted woodpecker holes as well as human-made buildings and bird boxes. During the reproductive season, females of this species are known to be highly territorial, fiercely defending their territories. Southern flying squirrels do not hibernate. In spite of their name, these rodents don't fly, but glide. During the 'flight', they are able to avoid trees and other obstacles with ease. Moreover, they can glide from a height of up to 18 meters (59 ft), pass as much as 50 meters (164 ft) at a time, and make 90 turns. The longest recorded glide of the Southern flying squirrel was 80 meters (262.5 ft). Although normally quiet, these adorable animals associate with conspecifics through various vocalizations.
As omnivorous animals, Southern flying squirrels have a rather diverse diet. They feed upon nuts, acorns, seeds, berries, fruit, moths, junebugs, leaf buds, bark, eggs, and cheeks of birds, young mice, insects, carrion as well as fungus.
Southern flying squirrels are polygynandrous (promiscuous) meaning that males and females mate with multiple partners. They have two breeding seasons per year: one occurs from January to April, and the other one lasts from June to August. The gestation period lasts for 40 days, yielding 1-6 young with an average of 2-3 per litter. Their eyes do not open until they are 24-30 days old. Mothers wean their young 65 days after they are born. The young then become fully independent at around 120 days of age. The age of reproductive maturity is typically one year of age, although some individuals are ready to produce offspring when they are 9 months old.
The population of this species as a whole doesn't face any serious threats. However, populations in certain areas suffer from habitat loss, combined with the loss of cavity-bearing and mast-producing trees that are an important part of their habitat. Northern flying squirrels in Arkansas (U.S.A.) have been threatened by a seed-tree harvest regime without retained overstorey hardwoods, which have disturbed the local population of these animals, sharply decreasing the number of available food recourses.
According to IUCN, the Southern flying squirrel is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers remain stable.
The main role of Southern flying squirrels in the local ecosystem is seed dispersal. These rodents act as key seed dispersers of not only hardwood trees, but also fruiting bodies of subterranean fungi, which they feed upon. They disperse fungi spores through their feces. The fungi mycelia are thought to be highly beneficial for tree growth and maintenance due to their association with tree roots.