Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) - Wiki
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The Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps), sometimes called the Flying Sugar, is a small gliding possum native to eastern and northern mainland Australia, New Guinea, and the Bismarck Archipelago, and introduced to Tasmania.
The Sugar Glider is around 16 to 20 cm (6.3 to 7.5 in) in length, with a tail almost as long as the body, and weighs between 90 and 150 grams (3 to 5.3 oz). The fur is generally pearl grey, with black and cream patches at the base of the black or grey ears. Other colour variations include leucistic and albino recessive traits. The tail tapers only moderately and the last quarter of it is black, often with a dark tip. The muzzle is short and rounded. Northern forms tend to be brown coloured rather than grey and, as predicted by Bergmann's Rule, smaller.
The most noticeable features of its anatomy, however, are the twin skin membranes called patagium which extend from the fifth finger of the forelimb back to the first toe of the hind foot. These are inconspicuous when the Sugar Glider is at rest ??? it merely looks a little flabby, as though it had lost a lot of weight recently ??? but immediately obvious when it takes flight. The membranes are used to glide between trees: when fully extended they form an aerodynamic surface the size of a large handkerchief.
The gliding membranes are primarily used as an efficient way to get to food resources. They may also, as a secondary function, help the Sugar Glider escape predators like goannas, introduced foxes and cats, and the marsupial carnivores that foxes, cats, and dingos largely supplanted. The ability to glide from tree to tree is clearly of little value with regard to the Sugar Glider's avian predators, however, in particular owls and kookaburras.
Although its aerial adaptation looks rather clumsy in comparison to the highly specialised limbs of birds and bats, the Sugar Glider can glide for a surprisingly long distance ??? flights have been measured at over 50 metres (55 yd) ??? and steer effectively by curving one or other of the patagium. It uses its hind legs to thrust powerfully away from a tree, and when about 3 metres (3 yd) from the destination tree trunk, brings its hind legs up close to the body and swoops upwards to make contact with all four limbs together.
The Sugar Glider can occupy any area where there are tree hollows for shelter and sufficient food. Its diet varies considerably with both geography and the changing seasons, but the main items are the sap of acacias and certain Eucalypts, nectar, pollen, and arthropods. It is difficult to see in the wild, being small, wary, and nocturnal, but a sure sign of its presence is the stripping of bark and tooth marks left in the soft, green shoots of acacia trees.
In suitable habitats it is common, often reaching densities of 1 per 1,000 square metres provided that there are tree hollows available for shelter. It lives in groups of up to 7 adults, plus the current season's young, all sharing a nest and defending their territory. Adult males mark the territory with saliva and with scent glands, and also mark members of the group with the scent produced by separate glands on the forehead and chest. Visitors which lack the appropriate scent marking are expelled violently. The dominant male mates more frequently with the female of the group than the other males, and does most of the scent marking. When an adult member of the group dies, it is normally replaced: by one of the group's own offspring if female, but by an outsider if male.
In the more temperate south, breeding starts in mid-winter (June or July). In the north, there seems to be no particular breeding season. Two young per female is typical; they remain in the pouch for about 70 days, and after leaving it stay inside the nest for another 40 or 50 days, then begin to forage outside, usually under the care of the mother. The young are normally ejected from the group territory at 7 to 10 months of age. Sometimes they form new groups if an area is vacant, but competition for territory is fierce and not many survive the first months of independent life. In captivity, they may live up to fifteen years.
Unlike many native animals, particularly smaller ones, the Sugar Glider is not endangered. Despite the massive loss of natural habitat in Australia over the last 200 years, it is adaptable and capable of living in surprisingly small patches of remnant bush, particularly if it does not have to cross large expanses of clear-felled land to reach them. Several close relatives, however, are endangered, particularly Leadbeater's Possum and the Mahogany Glider (which, to the non-expert, looks almost exactly like a Sugar Glider).
The Sugar Glider is protected by law in Australia, where it is illegal to keep them as pets, or to capture or sell them without a licence (which is usually only issued for research).
Sugar Gliders as pets
Where legal, the Sugar Glider is not difficult to breed in captivity under the right conditions, and small numbers have been legally and illegally exported to America where they have formed a breeding population for sale as pets. Breeding mills are a controversial subject. In the United States, keeping sugar gliders as pets is illegal in some jurisdictions, including California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Alaska; many other states require a permit.
The Sugar Glider is a popular pet because of its lively and inquisitive nature; with plenty of attention, it bonds well to human companions. It requires a special diet that includes vitamin and calcium supplements, and insects.
When bred and kept in captivity sugar gliders behave differently to wild gliders. As gliders are very social creatures, often living in families in the wild, it is difficult to raise a single sugar glider in captivity. It is rare for a sugar glider owner to be up late at night, when gliders are most active, to play with it. With multiple sugar gliders, social behavior is closer to that of wild gliders.
As important as it is to make sure a sugar glider has a proper diet, it is just as important that they have a proper environment. Most pet owners would recommend a minimum housing size of 30 in by 30 in by 30 in. It is important for the sugar glider to have enough room to run around freely and jump and climb. To further simulate natural surroundings an environment may have branches or vines. With that it is important to note that certain plants are poisonous to sugar gliders, but there are plants that are safe to have in a sugar glider environment.
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