Sugar Glider

Wild Status:

Least Concern

Scientific Name:

Petaurus breviceps

Distribution:

Honey Gliders, of which there are seven subspecies, range throughout much of northern, eastern and southern Australia, including the island of Tasmania and throughout the Indonesian Islands. They have a broad habitat niche, inhabiting rainforests and coconut plantations in New Guinea; and rainforests, wet or dry sclerophyll forest and acacia scrub in Australia; preferring habitats with Eucalypt and Acacia species.

Description:

The sugar glider is a type of possum that has a squirrel-like body with a long, partially prehensile tail. The length from the nose to the tip of the tail is about 24 to 30 cm and half that length is tail. Males and females weigh just 140 grams and 115 grams respectively. The fur coat on the sugar glider is thick, soft, and is usually blue-grey; although some have been known to be yellow, tan or (rarely) albino. A black stripe is seen from its nose to midway on its back. Its belly, throat, and chest are cream in colour. Each foot on the sugar glider has five digits, with an opposable toe on each hind foot. These opposable toes are clawless, and bend in a way that they can touch all the other digits, like a human thumb, allowing the sugar glider to firmly grasp branches.

Sugar gliders are characterised by their gliding membrane, known as the patagium, which extends from their forelegs to hindlegs.

Land clearance mainly for agriculture is a threat through many parts of its range and It is susceptible to bushfires, but populations appear to be stable.

Adaptations:

The Sugar Glider has evolved to suit it’s nocturnal life. It’s large eyes help it to see at night, and it’s ears swivel to help locate prey in the dark. The eyes of the sugar glider are set far apart, allowing them to triangulate the distance between launch and landing location during gliding. Gliding serves as an efficient method of moving around the forest and they very rarely venture down to the forest floor.

Feeding and habits:

Sugar Gliders are omnivorous with a wide variety of foods in their diet.

In summer they are primarily insectivorous and in the winter when insects (and other arthropods) are scarce, they are mostly exudativorous (that means they feed on acacia gum, eucalyptus sap, manna, honeydew or lerp). 

They are opportunistic feeders and can be carnivorous, preying mostly on lizards and small birds, and they eat many other foods when available, such as nectar, acacia seeds, bird eggs, pollen, fungi and native fruits.

Sadly,Sugar Gliders predate upon the nests of the Swift parrot and is a serious threat to the parrot's survival

Like all arboreal, nocturnal marsupials, Sugar Gliders are active at night, and shelter in tree hollows lined with leafy twigs during the day.

Sugar gliders can live in forests of all types, given that there is an adequate food supply.

They build their nests in the branches of eucalyptus trees inside their territory. 

 

Breeding and Life Expectancy:

Gestation usually lasts around 16 days. Sugar gliders usually have a litter size of 1-2, each of which weigh about 0.19 grams at birth. The young first leaves the pouch after 70 days, and after about 111 days, they leave the nest and become independent shortly thereafter. 

 

Lifespan: 12 – 15 years.

 

More Interesting Facts:

  • Our Sugar Gliders are the only Marsupials we have at The Jungle.

  • Native owls are their primary predators; other predators include kookaburras, goannas, snakes, quolls and feral cats. 

  • A Sugar Glider can glide through the treetops for 50 metres or more!

  • The common name refers to its preference for sugary foods such as nectar and tree sap and it’s ability to glide through the air.

  • Hibernation is a seasonal event for many animals, where an animal almost shuts down it’s body and allows it’s body temperature to fall, saving energy through the winter months.

  • Sugar Gliders do not hibernate but go into ‘torpor’ during cold or rainy weather conditions.

  • Torpor is like hibernation but occurs for shorter periods of a few hours, perhaps on a daily basis during cold or bad conditions, saving it energy.

  • The male can be easily identified because it has a bald patch on it’s head where there is a scent gland.

 

Note: Our special lighting means that our Sugar Gliders think that it is night time during the day and daytime during the night, so they usually wake up and are looking for food around lunchtime which is probably the best time to see them.

© 2019 by Cleethorpes Jungle Zoo