Petaurista petauristared giant flying squirrel

Geographic Range

Petaurista petaurista ranges from the eastern border regions of Afghanistan to Java, and from Kashmir, Taiwan, and southern China to Sri Lanka. Its greatest numbers are found in the forest regions of Pakistan.


Giant flying squirrels make their nests in the tree cavities of densely forested areas.

Physical Description

The giant flying squirrel has a distinctive, thickly haired flying membrane that extends from its wrists to its hind legs and is further expanded by a skin fold between the tail root and the hind legs. This membrane is composed of sheets of muscles that can be tensed or relaxed at will, thus controlling the direction of glide. In addition, there is a large spur on the edge of this membrane that helps to support it. Petaurista petaurista is characterized by its large eyes and mahogany-red coloring, though coloration varies with environment. Relative to other squirrels, this species is very large; its head and body lenth average 398mm and its tail adds an additional 422mm. Five digits, all of which have curved and sharp claws, are found on the hind feet and four are found on the forefeet.

  • Average mass
    1750 g
    61.67 oz


Because P. petaurista is a nocturnal animal, little is known about its reproductive activities. Evidence gathered thus far indicates that the species typically have 2-3 young per litter and wean them after about 2.5 months. The concealed nest is made by the mother. Mating is believed to occur twice a year and the young are generally born between early March and early August. The lifespan of these squirrels can be up to 16 years in captivity.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring



In addition to being good climbers, giant flying squirrels are excellent gliders; some were observed gliding for up to 75 meters. This is accomplished by jumping off an elevation. usually the topmost branches of a tree. While in flight, these squirrels are able to control the direction of the glide by tensing and relaxing their membrane muscles. At rest, they fold the flying membrane close into their bodies. These solitary animals are nocturnal and are most active and vocal during the evening hours. Their low, monotonous moan is believed to be a mating call of some kind. Although the regions where these squirrels live become quite cold during the winter season, P. petaurista does not hibernate, butthey may migrate to areas where food is more abundant.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The giant flying squirrel's diet primarily consists of pine cones, tree buds, leaves, young branches, and, when in season, various fruits and nuts. In captivity, individuals have been maintained on raisins and nuts, but refused shrubs and other leafy substances.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The pelt of this species of squirrel is occasionally sold by local merchants in Murree and Rawalpindi.

Conservation Status

Within their geographic range, Petaurista petaurista are quite common. However, the cutting and burning of forest regions have significantly decreased the size of their habitats.

Other Comments

The two main predators of P. petaurista are the charsa marten and the bengal cat, which are able to surprise the squirrel while it sleeps.


Sarah Newlin (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, James Bradshaw (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


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


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.


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

World Map


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


uses touch to communicate


Grzimek's Encyclopedia. 1990. Volume 3: Mammals. McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, p.96-103.

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. Fifth Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, p.563-564.

Roberts, T.J., 1977. The Mammals of Pakistan. Ernest Bean Limited, London, p.218-223.