Aeromys tephromelasblack flying squirrel

Geographic Range

Black flying squirrels are found in Southeast Asia, specifically on the Malayan Peninsula and the islands of Penang, Sumatra, and Borneo (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013.2). There have also been reports in Thailand, but those sightings have not been confirmed. Because populations of black flying squirrels in that area are poorly studied, it's possible that observations were misidentified Petaurista species (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013). (Aplin, et al., 2013)


Black flying squirrels inhabit both primary and secondary forests in the lowlands and foothills of mountains in Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo (Jackson, 2012). They are uncommon in deep forests (Muul & Liat, 1971) and prefer mature forests or clearings with few large trees, but don't tend to stay in plantations of fruit and rubber (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). Large trees provide potential nesting cavities for this nocturnal species. Because they have been found near human villages in Malaysia (Humphrey & Bain, 1990), they are thought to be relatively adaptable (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013). (Aplin, et al., 2013; Humphrey and Bain, 1990; Jackson, 2012; Muul and Liat, 1971)

Physical Description

Black flying squirrels are relatively large compared to other squirrels. They have a total body length between 255 and 426 mm, a tail length between 280 and 527 mm, and weigh between 1,128 and 1,250 grams (Nowak, 1999). The gliding surface area, excluding the head and tail, is about 1,600 square centimeters (Thorington & Heaney, 1981). Females tend to be slightly larger than their male counterparts, but not significantly (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). The two subspecies of Aeromys tephromelas vary only in their fur color, with A.t. tephromelas being mainly black and A. t. phaeomelas being primarily orange-red (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). In the darker subspecies, A.t. tephromelas, the fur on the dorsal side, as well as the head and cheeks, tends to be dark gray to almost black with some slight, pale flecking on the back (Jackson, 2012). Comparatively, the ventral surface is generally paler in both subspecies. (Jackson, 2012; Nowak, 1999; Thorington and Heaney, 1981; Thorington, et al., 2012)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    1128 to 1250 g
    39.75 to 44.05 oz
  • Range length
    255 to 426 mm
    10.04 to 16.77 in


Little is known about black flying squirrels mating systems. While there is a great deal of information on reproduction in Sciuridae, many nocturnal flying squirrels and tropical species remain relatively unstudied. (Thorington, et al., 2012)

Female black flying squirrels always produce a litter of just one young (Jackson, 2012). In general, flying squirrels tend to have smaller litter sizes of one to four young (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). They breed infrequently, leading to a slow population turnover (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). (Humphrey and Bain, 1990; Jackson, 2012; Thorington, et al., 2012)

  • Average number of offspring
  • Range weaning age
    3 to 4 months
  • Average time to independence
    1 years

Approximately three to four months after birth, the young are fully developed. Black flying squirrel young are able to leave the care of their parents before the age of one, which can be an indicator of a typically asocial species (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). (Thorington, et al., 2012)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Although little is known about black flying squirrels, the typical longevity of most squirrels is 5 to 10 years. Many squirrels can survive up to 20 years in captivity (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). Black flying squirrels tend to have a slower population turnover than other squirrels because they have small litter sizes and breed infrequently (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). (Humphrey and Bain, 1990; Thorington, et al., 2012)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 to 10 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 to 20 years


Little is known about the behavior of this canopy-dwelling species, except that most of its activity takes place well after sunset (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). Black flying squirrels move about the treetops foraging for food (Nowak, 1999). Because they are nocturnal, they spend the daylight hours in nesting locations in tree cavities (Jackson, 2012). (Humphrey and Bain, 1990; Jackson, 2012; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

There is no information in the literature on home range size in black flying squirrels.

Communication and Perception

No reports of communication in black flying squirrels have been published. (Thorington, et al., 2012)

Food Habits

Fruits, nuts, and other plant foods make up most of the diet of this poorly studied species of flying squirrel (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013.2). Black flying squirrels also feed on leaves, shoots, and possibly some insects (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). Like other squirrels, they may cache their food. Most squirrels are opportunistic in the food that they consume, but within species, diets may become more specialized (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). (Aplin, et al., 2013; Humphrey and Bain, 1990; Thorington, et al., 2012)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Like other flying squirrels, black flying squirrels nest in tree cavities during the daylight hours, which are usually sufficiently camouflaged from potential predators. There has been little, if any research done no the effects of predation on Aeromys tephromelas. (Thorington, et al., 2012)

Ecosystem Roles

Although no ecosystem roles have been reported for black flying squirrels, they may disperse seeds, pollinate flowers, or spread fungal spores (Thorington, Koprowski, Steele, & Whatton, 2012). (Thorington, et al., 2012)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Because so little is known about black flying squirrels, no conclusive economic benefits are listed for this species (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013). (Aplin, et al., 2013; Thorington, et al., 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of black flying squirrels on humans. (Aplin, et al., 2013; Thorington, et al., 2012)

Conservation Status

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, black flying squirrels are categorized as "data deficient" (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013). Because they are rare, and have been since their initial discovery, some have categorized this species as threatened (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). Little is known about this species of squirrel. Black flying squirrels are not currently facing any known threats, but loss of habitat may become one in the future (Aplin, Lunde, Duckworth, Lee, & Tizard, 2013.2). Lowland forests, the preferred habitat type of this rare squirrel, tend to be the first forests to be harvested. There may also be a trade in taxidermic mounts of Aeromys (Humphrey & Bain, 1990). (Aplin, et al., 2013; Humphrey and Bain, 1990)

Other Comments

While there is little information about this species of flying squirrel, conservation efforts have been proposed in case the species is threatened and needs to be protected. One proposed effort is the conservation of Thailand’s southern-most lowland forests. Protection of this area would affect many species in addition to Aeromys tephromelas (Humphrey & Bain, 1990).


Ana Breit (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Aplin, K., D. Lunde, B. Lee, R. Tizard. 2013. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed April 20, 2014 at

Humphrey, S., J. Bain. 1990. Endangered Animals of Thailand. Gainesville, Florida: Sandhill Crane Press.

Jackson, S. 2012. Gliding Mammals of the World. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.

Muul, I., L. Liat. 1971. New Locality Records for Some Mammals of West Malaysia. American Society of Mammalogists, 52: 430-437.

Nowak, R. 1999. Endangered Animals of Thailand. Gainesville, Florida: Sandhill Crane Press Inc..

Thorington, R., L. Heaney. 1981. Body Proportions and Gliding Adaptations of Flying Squirrels. American Society of Mammalogists, 62: 101-114.

Thorington, R., J. Koprowski, M. Steele, J. Whatton. 2012. Squirrels of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.