Southern Flying Squirrel

Southern Flying Squirrel

Assapan

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Tribe
Genus
SPECIES
Glaucomys volans
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
5-10 yrs
WEIGHT
45-82 g
LENGTH
210-255 mm

The southern flying squirrel is a considerably small, arboreal rodent. The animal exhibits large eyes as well as a flattened, wide, and heavily furred tail. The southern flying squirrel is a gliding creature. When 'flying', it uses so-called "patagium" - a fold of skin, found between its hind and forelegs. Before gliding, the rodent expands this fold of skin and rushes into the air.

No

Nocturnal

Om

Omnivore

Ar

Arboreal

Al

Altricial

Gl

Gliding

Zo

Zoochory

No

Nomadic

Sc

Scansorial

Te

Territorial

Vi

Viviparous

Po

Polygynandry

Hi

Highly social

No

Not a migrant

S

starts with

Distribution

Geography

The natural range of Southern flying squirrel is considerably large, stretching from southeastern Canada to the eastern United States, Mexico, and Honduras. The preferred habitat of this species is forest, dominated by maple, beech, hickory, oak, poplar, and other seed-producing hardwoods. The rodent also favors mixed conifer/deciduous forests.

Southern Flying Squirrel habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

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, pass as much as 50 meters a time and make 90 turns. The longest recorded glide of Southern flying squirrel was 80 meters. Although normally quiet, these animals associate with conspecifics through various vocalizations.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

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.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
January-April, June-August
PREGNANCY DURATION
40 days
BABY CARRYING
2-3 kittens
INDEPENDENT AGE
120 days
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
pup, kit, kitten

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. Weaning occurs quite late - at 65 days old. Young gain independence at the age of 120 days. The age of reproductive maturity is typically one year old, although some individuals are ready to produce offspring at 9 months old.

Population

Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Ecological niche

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The favorite food of this rodent is hickory nuts and acorns. One way to detect if there as Southern flying squirrels in the area is the presence of piles of gnawed hickory nuts, found at the base of large hickory trees.
  • Due to their large eyes, these animals see well at night. In addition, they possess well-developed senses of smell, vision, hearing, and touch.
  • The thick paws serve them help them land on trees when gliding. Before the 'flight', they usually find the highest point, from where they continue gliding.
  • A single individual of this species hoards up to 15 000 nuts during a season.
  • Southern flying squirrels are frequently seen raiding bird feeders. In fact, these rodents love peanuts in the shell. Knowing this, some people even construct 'flying squirrel feeders'.
  • The North American flying squirrels closely resemble the Australian sugar gliders, although these two animals are not related.

References

1. Southern Flying Squirrel Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_flying_squirrel
2. Southern Flying Squirrel on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/9240/0

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