Petaurus brevicepssugar glider

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Geographic Range

The sugar glider's distribution covers New Guinea and certain nearby islands, Bismark Archipelago, and northern and eastern Australia. (Grizmek, 1990, http://www.evansville.net/%7Empzoo/4whenarr.htm., Nowak, 1997)

Habitat

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. Since they have also been found to live insSouthern Australia, they must be able to deal with the cold effectively. (Grizmek, 1990, Nowak, 1997)

Physical Description

The sugar glider is a relatively small marsupial; its head and body are approximately 120-320mm long and the tail has a length of 150-480mm. Sugar gliders are generally blue-greyish dorsally while their ventral surfaces are somewhat paler. A dark stripe runs down the back from the posterior end to the nose, while similar stripes are located on each side of the face running from the eye to the ear. Much like flying squirrels, sugar gliders have a gliding membrane which extends from the outer side of the fore foot to the ankle of the rear foot and may be opened by spreading out the limbs. The female sugar glider also has a well developed pouch. (Grizmek, 1990; Grove, 1996; http://www.evansville.net/%7Empzoo/4whenarr.htm; Nowak, 1997)

  • Average mass
    110 g
    3.88 oz
    AnAge
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.517 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Sugar gliders held in captivity have been found to live up to 14 years. Sexual maturity in sugar gliders occurs late in the first year of life for females and early in the second year for males. Sugar gliders have an estrous cycle of approximately 29 days. In Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia, there appears to be no definite breeding season. In southeastern Australia, however, the young are born only from the months of June to November. 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. Females are not pregnant while the young is still dependent on them. Sometimes females may become hostile towards their young so that they will leave sooner and the female may become pregnant again. (Grove, 1996; Nowak, 1997)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    16 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    236 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    456 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Sugar gliders are extremely active animals that can glide up to 45 meters. They nest in groups of up to seven adult males and females and their young, all of whom are related. Groups of sugar gliders are mutually exclusive and territorial. Each group defends a certain number of eucalyptus trees which provide the group with its staple food source. The adult males of the group regularly mark this territory with their saliva and with the secretions of their anal, hand, and foot scent glands. Sugar gliders also have scent glands located on the forehead and chest that are used by the males in a group to mark all of the other members. There is usually one dominant male in each group of sugar gliders, who is responsible for most of the marking of the territory and the group. This male is usually heavier, produces more testosterone, and mates more frequently with the females of the group. When another animal is detected that it does not belong to the group because it does not have the group scent, it is immediately and violently attacked. Within groups, no fighting takes place beyond threatening behavior. Sugar gliders can also communicate through the variety of sounds they can produce, such as an alarm call which sounds like the barking of a small dog. The territory size of a group of sugar gliders is around 2.5 acres.

(Grizmek, 1990; Grove, 1996; Nowak, 1997; Smith, 1982; Stoddart, Bradley, & Mallick, 1994)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Sugar gliders are omnivorous. Sugar gliders are especially found of the sweet sap which can be found in the eucalyptus tree. Their diet also includes pollen, nectar, insects and their larvae, arachnids, and small vertebrates. During the spring and summer months sugar gliders predominately feed upon insects, mainly moths and beetles, and during the fall and winter months they feed on plant products, such as eucalyptus sap and pollen. (Grizmeck, 1990; Grove, 1996; Nowak, 1997; Smith, 1982)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There has been a recent boom in the American pet population of sugar gliders. Currently, the USDA's guidelines for owning and breeding sugar gliders in the United States varies from state to state. ( http://www.isga.org/; Grove, 1995)

Conservation Status

Sugar gliders are quite common in Australia. (Nowak, 1997)

Other Comments

If the weather in a particular area ever becomes too cold or there are long periods of food scarcity, sugar gliders are able to fall into a state of brief hibernation. (Grizmek, 1990)

Contributors

Jason Pasatta (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

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

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

motile

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.

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

References

Grizmek, (1997) Grizmek's Encyclopedia Volume 1, McGraw-Hill Publishing, New York, 318-324

Grove, R., (1995) Ruth's Sugar Glider Home Page, http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/regrove/

International Sugar Glider Association Home Page, http://www.isga.org/

Mesker Park Zoo Home Page, http://www.evansville.net/%7Empzoo/4whenarr.htm.

Smith, A.P., (1982) Diet and feeding strategies of the marsupial sugar glider in temperate Australia. Journal of Animal Ecology, 51, 149-166

Stoddart, D.M., Bradley, A.J., & Mallick, J., (1994) Plasma testosterone concentration, body weight, social dominance and scent marking in male marsupial sugar gliders. The Zoological Society of London, 232, 595-601

Nowak, R.M., (1997) Walker's Mammals of the World 5.1 Online, http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers mammals of the world/marsupialia/marsupialia.petauridae.petaurus.html.