Sugar Glider

Petaurus breviceps

Petaurus breviceps

The sugar glider is one of a number of volplaning (gliding) possums in Australia.  Ability to glide is achieved through a flap of loose skin, which extends between the fifth finger of the hand to the first toe of the foot.  The animal launches itself from a tree, spreads its limbs to expose the gliding membrane and directs its glide through subtle changes in the curvature of the membrane.  Glides of up to 50m have been recorded.  Life span is 4-5 years.

Breeding

Occurs during the winter and spring months.  Gestation is 16 days.  Young spend about 70 days in the pouch before being left in the nest.  Normal litter size is 1-2.  Nests often comprise up to 7 adults and their young.

Behaviour

Highly social creatures – as far as marsupials go.  Huddling together serves the nest occupants well during spells of cold weather.  Although the species is also capable of becoming torpid during cold weather, that is, its body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure drop for a few days at a time while the animal is in a state similar to hibernation.  Well endowed with scent glands which presumably allow territorial marking and individual recognition of family members.  They are also highly vocal animals and have a range of vocalisations for different occasions.  If the nest is disturbed, the occupants emit a rather intimidating chattering sound.

Diet

Have a sweet tooth – their diet consists of flower nectar, fruit and pollen, acacia gum, eucalypt sap, spiders and insects.

Status

Widespread throughout Tasmania, eastern and northern Australia.  Due to the lack of skeletal remains and the lack of an aboriginal name, it is assumed that the species was introduced.