Petinomys fuscocapillusTravancore flying squirrel

Geographic Range

Two subspecies of the Travancore flying squirrel, Petinomys fuscocapillus, exist and are distinguished by their geographic location rather than their physical appearance. Petinomys fuscocapillus fuscocapillus is found in the Western Ghats of Peninsular India, Petinomys fuscocapillus layardi is found in Sri Lanka. Sightings of the Travancore flying squirrel in Peninsular India have occurred in Nilgris, High Wavy Mountains, and Anamalais in Tamil Nadu, the forests of Travancore and the Malabar Coast in Kerala, and also in the western foothills of Western Ghats in Karnataka. In Sri Lanka, the Travancore flying squirrel has been known to occur in the wet and dry zones of the Southern, Central, North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces.

Until recently the distribution was based only on previous sighting records, but a recent study conducted using the ecological niche models and GIS coverages of the particular regions created a potential distribution based on known sighting locations and ecological conditions. Their results suggest that the potential distribution of the Travancore flying squirrel ranges from the Western Ghats Mountain range of India to the West coast region, specifically the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. The potential distribution in Sri Lanka is much broader, with possible presence in all nine provinces. (Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011)


The Travancore flying squirrel inhabits tropical lowland evergreen forests and deciduous forests at a medium to low elevation in both Peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The areas it inhabits are mostly areas of high rainfall with few dry months and are relatively warm, with the mean temperature of the coldest month being around 23°C. In Sri Lanka, they have occurred in intermediate zones between wet and dry zones. Much of their potential habitat has been converted to plantations and irrigated croplands, and a good portion of their remaining natural habitat lies outside of the protected areas of sanctuaries and national parks. Some individuals of Petinomys fuscocapillus have been known to adapt and survive in the marginal forest habitats left near agricultural plantations. (Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011; Molur, et al., 2005)

  • Range elevation
    500 to 2000 m
    1640.42 to 6561.68 ft

Physical Description

The Travancore flying squirrel is a small to medium sized squirrel with a head and body length of about 317.5mm. Its tail ranges from 244mm to 320mm long, the ears are about 27-30mm, with a hind-foot length of about 52mm.

Its coat is moderately long and dense with a glossy finish, especially along the dorsal side. The fur on its dorsal side is a reddish-brown color due to chestnut tipped black hairs that cover most of the body. The underside is covered in shorter, less dense fur that is a whitish-grey color at the base with a rufous tip. Like most flying squirrels, the Travancore flying squirrel possesses a fur-lined, membranous skin flap (patagium) that extends from its wrists to its ankles. The fur lining the patagium is short and dense with dark fur lining the dorsal side and reddish-brown fur lining the underside. The tail of the Travancore flying squirrel is shorter than the body, bushy, and it is held in a curved position over the back. It is a dark, red-brown color that lightens as it approaches the skin of the tail. It has elongated forefeet with four toes and hind-feet that contain five toes; all of its digits end in thick, strong claws.

The face of the Travancore flying squirrel is marked by dark patches of short, dense fur around the eyes and nose, which is surrounded by long, black whiskers. Its forehead is a dark red-brown with a lighter red-brown color extending from the cheeks and down the ventral side of neck. The Travancore flying squirrel has short, narrow ears with back tufts around the base of the ear and extend almost past the ear. (Jerdon, 1984; Phillips, 1980)

  • Average mass
    0.7938 kg
    1.75 lb
  • Range length
    tail length 244 to tail length 320 mm
    to in
  • Average length
    Body lenght is 320 mm


As a rare, nocturnal species little is known about the Travancore flying squirrel's mating systems. (Phillips, 1980)

Females have been reported to have about two young per litter. The gestation period, age of maturity, and breeding season are still unknonw for this species. (Phillips, 1980)

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

The mother raises the young within a hole in a tree trunk lined with vegetation. Little else is known about the paternal investments of the father and the length of time juvenlies spend with the mother. (Phillips, 1980)


Little is known of about the lifespan of the Travancore flying squirrel, but based on a closely related species the generation time is believed to be between 3-3.5 years. No Travancore flying squirrels are currently held in captivity. (Phillips, 1980; Kennerley, 2016)


The Travancore flying squirrel is mostly nocturnal with some activity occuring around dawn and dusk. Previous sightings and studies suggest that it is a solitary and complete arboreal species. They are known to live within tree trunks where they spend the majority of their day. Little else is known about the foraging, social, or other behaviors of the Travancore flying squirrel. (Kennerley, 2016; Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011; Phillips, 1980)

Home Range

Little is known about the home range of the Travancore flying squirrel. Their area of occupancy is estimated to be >2,000 km2. (Kennerley, 2016; Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011)

Communication and Perception

Little is known about the Travancore flying squirrel intraspecific or interspecific communication. (Phillips, 1980)

Food Habits

The feeding habits of the Travancore flying squirrel are not well studied, but based on the feeding habits of similar species, they are believed to eat wild fruits, nuts, and vegitation. Because the Travancore flying squirrel is rare in the wilde it is beleived to be specialists. (Phillips, 1980; Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011)

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


No known predators have been recorded for the Travancore flying squirrel. (Phillips, 1980)

Ecosystem Roles

The ecosystem impact of the Travancore flying squirrel is unknown.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Travancore flying squirrel has been known to be used as food for humans in the areas it is found. (Kennerley, 2016; Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Due to habitat destruction, some individuals of the species Petinomys fuscocapillus have been known to adapt to live near agriculture croplands and are considered by some agriculturists to be pests. (Kumara and Suganthasakthivel, 2011)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Other Comments

Petinomys fuscocapillus has previously been classified as Sciuropterus fusco-capillus. In addition to being known as the Travancore flying squirrel, it also has two other common names: the Travancore gliding squirrel, and the samll Ceylon flying squirrel. (Phillips, 1980; Jerdon, 1984)


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



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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


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


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


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


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

World Map


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.


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


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.


Jerdon, T. 1984. A Handbook of the Mammals of India: A Natural History of all the Animals Known to Inhabit Indian Sub-continent. India: Mittal Publications.

Kennerley, R. 2016. "Petinmoys fuscocapillus" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 28, 2017 at

Kumara, H., R. Suganthasakthivel. 2011. Predicting the potential distribution of Travancore flying squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka using GARP and its conservation.. Tropical Conservation Science, 4(2): 172-186.. Accessed February 17, 2017 at

Molur, S., C. Srinivasulu, B. Srinivasulu, . Walker, P. Nameer, L. Ravikumar. 2005. "Status of South Asian Non-volant Small Mammals: Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (C.A.M.P.) Workshop Report." (On-line pdf). Accessed April 28, 2017 at

Phillips, W. 1980. Manual of the Mammals of Sri Lanka. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka.