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Overview

Distribution

Range Description

The species was originally known from a few specimens collected in extreme northern Pakistan in the portion of Kashmir under Pakistani control and from northern Sikkim, India (Nowak 1999). The range possibly extends to China (Agrawal and Chakraborty 1969, Roberts 1977). Corbet and Hill (1992) report that two skins have been collected from Yunnan, however, the species is not reported from China by Smith and Xie (2008). The presence of the species in Sikkim, India as reported by Agarwal and Chakraborty (1970) is based on a single skin. However, due to the lack of osteological and other distinguishing characteristics of the species, and the lack of subsequent records from Sikkim, the distribution of the species in Sikkim is doubtful. Eupetaurus cinereus is currently known only from a very small region in northern Pakistan, in Diamer and southern Gilgit districts and (Zahler and Woods 1997) and there is currently no evidence that the species exists in India or other nearby countries.
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Geographic Range

The range of Eupetaurus cinereus is restricted to the extreme northern portion of the Himilayas (Roberts 1977). All specimens have been collected from the rugged, mountainous region of northern Pakistan, but the range of E. cinereus is presumed to extend somewhat into Tibet (Nowak 1991).

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Eupetaurus cinereus is known entirely from about ten specimens (Grzimek 1990). Like other flying squirrels, it has elastic membranes on each side of the body connecting the fore and hind legs (Prater 1965). It is slightly larger in size and has a shorter, bushier tail than the Giant Red Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista albiventer) which also inhabits Pakistan. Two E. cinereus specimens measured 61 cm and 51.5 cm, respectively, from head to base of tail. The larger specimen had a tail length of 38 cm, while the smaller had a tail measuring 48 cm. The body is covered by a dense coat of straight, silky hairs. The dorsal pelage appears blue-gray, while the underside is pale gray in color. Creamy white hairs cover the throat and ears, and dense, black fur covers the soles of the feet except for the naked, pinkish brown toe pads. The tail, bearing hairs of about 7.6 cm in length, is large and bulky and may be as broad as the animal's body (Roberts 1977). Molars have relatively high crowns compared to the low crowned, brachyodont molars of all other flying squirrel genera, and unlike other flying squirrels, the claws of E. cinereus are blunt and adapted for rocky terrain instead of an arboreal lifestyle (Blanford 1891).

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Eupetaurus cinereus is currently known to live only in caves and crevices on steep cliffs in the dry conifer forest zone of northern Pakistan. This region was historically well-forested with blue pine (Pinus wallichiana), chilgoza pine (P. gerardiana), juniper (Juniperus sp.), and scattered deodar cedar, spruce and fir in higher and moister side valleys. It is bound in this region to between 2,400 and 3,800 m in elevation, as below this minimum there is only scattered dry scrub or arid rock desert and above this maximum is the alpine zone (Zahler and Woods 1997). It is strictly nocturnal, and dietary analysis suggests that it is highly dependent upon pine needles in its diet (Zahler and Khan 2003).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Within its range, E. cinereus dwells on rocky terrain at and above the timber line (Grzimek 1990). It probably ventures into the isolated pockets of conifer forest to forage (Roberts 1977).

Terrestrial Biomes: mountains

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

The high crowned molars of E. cinereus indicate a diet of extremely rough vegetation. It appears that much of the diet consists of buds and cones, particularly those of the native spruce, Picea morinda. At high elevations, Picea morinda begins producing buds in April and cones in late summer. The cones are shed in winter when the ground is covered by snow, meaning that, by early spring, food for E. cinereus may be in extremely short supply. During these hard times, E. cinereus probably turns to mosses and lichens as a main food source (Roberts, 1977).

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Very little is actually known about the reproduction of E. cinereus. An immature specimen was collected on April 17. This seems to indicate that breeding occurs early in the spring and that two litters may be produced each season (Roberts 1977). However, such conclusions are little more than speculation.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2c+3c; C1

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Zahler, P.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. & Molur, S.

Contributor/s

Justification

Listed as Endangered as it is very likely that Eupetaurus cinereus has had a reduction in population of 50% or more in the last 10 years, based on habitat loss in the region during this period (Hasan 2008, Rao and Marwat 2003). It is also possible that the species will continue to have its population reduced, perhaps by as much as 50% over the next 10 years, if further deforestation is not controlled. Much of this forest has been logged in recent times and estimates place the total extent of forest remaining in the entire northern areas in 2003 at about 2,800 km² (Rao and Marwat 2003), down by more than 50% in 10 years from over 6,600 km² in 1992 (Hasan 2008). Total population size is estimated between 1,000 and 3,000 individuals within the known range (Zahler and Woods 1997) and there is an estimated continuing decline of at least 20% within five years if current levels of deforestation are not controlled.


History
  • 1996
    Endangered
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Eupetaurus cinereus was first described by Oldfield Thomas in 1888. Since that time, only a handful of specimens have been collected. Photographs of the species are equally rare. Because it inhabits a very limited range in an exceedingly hostile climate, our knowledge of E. cinereus is too limited to accurately determine the status of the population. However, it is reasonable to assume that E. cinereus has always been a relatively rare species, existing at low population densities (Roberts 1977).

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Population

Population
Until 1994 there had been no confirmed sightings of this species since 1924 (Zahler 1996). Pakistan the vast majority of recent sightings have been in Diamer and southern Gilgit Districts (Zahler and Woods 1997). Estimates in 1996 based on potential available habitat and local knowledge suggest a population in the core region of Diamer of between 1,000 and 3,000 (Zahler and Woods 1997). There is no current information available on the population abundance of this species elsewhere in South Asia (Molur et al. 2005).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
This species is threatened by habitat loss due to large-scale clear-cutting of forests (Zahler and Woods 1997). It is also threatened to a lesser extent by expansion of agriculture, small-scale logging, infrastructure development, and human settlements (Molur et al. 2005).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
In Pakistan, habitat destruction was the most immediate threat to the survival of the woolly flying squirrel. The Wildlife Conservation Society has launched a community conservation initiative, the Northern Areas Conservation Project. This project is aimed at helping local communities protect the high mountain pine forest ecosystem that the woolly flying squirrel depends upon for its survival. The species is included in the Schedule II (Part II) of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Surveys and monitoring are recommended for this species (Molur et al. 2005).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eupetaurus cinereus has never been common enough or well known enough to be utilized for economic gain.

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Wikipedia

Woolly flying squirrel

The Woolly Flying Squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus) is the sole species placed in the genus Eupetaurus. Until recently scientific knowledge of this rare species was limited to 11 skins collected in the late nineteenth century. However, recent research has confirmed that it remains in Pakistani Kashmir. It is the longest member of the family Sciuridae and the biggest gliding animal known, but observations confirm that despite its size, it does glide effectively like other flying squirrels.

Distribution and description[edit]

Eupetaurus has been recorded in northern Pakistan in the area around Gilgit. These areas include Chitral, Astor. Other specimens have been purchased from a bazaar in Tibet, collected in Tibet, and collected in Yunnan, China. Since 1994, specimens have been captured in the Sai Valley, Gorabad, and Balti Gali, all in northern Pakistan (Zahler and Woods, 1997). In 2004, the animal was videotaped by Dinets in Raikot Valley near Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. The preferred habitat appears to be high elevation conifer forests associated with cliffs and caves.

The Woolly Flying Squirrel is very large for a flying squirrel (head and body = 45–60 centimetres (18–24 in)). The cheek teeth are unique as they are both flat-crowned and high crowned (hypsodont), setting Eupetaurus apart from other squirrels and suggesting that it feeds on very abrasive plant material, including pine needles (Zahler and Khan, 2003). The animal has fur that is long and thick, with a grizzled pattern that gives the appearance of a woolly pelage, thus the name.

Relationships[edit]

The woolly flying squirrel is unique among the flying squirrels. This is particularly true of its large size and its unique dentition. This led a few early researchers to go so far as to create a distinct family. Some of their arguments were based on poorly drawn and labeled diagrams of the cranium and lower jaw. Zahler and Woods (1997) suggest instead that Eupetaurus is closely related to another genus of large flying squirrels, Petaurista.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Molur, S. (2008). Eupetaurus cinereus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  • Dinets, V. (2011). Observations of woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus) in Nanga Parbat Range of northern Pakistan. Mammalia 75(3): 277-280.
  • Zahler, P. (1996). Rediscovery of the woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus). Journal of Mammalogy 77: 54-57.
  • Zahler, P. (2001). The woolly flying squirrel and gliding: does size matter? Acta Theriologica 46: 429-435.
  • Zahler, P. and M. Khan. (2003). Evidence for dietary specialization on pine needles by the woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus). Journal of Mammalogy, 84(2): 480-486.
  • Zahler, P. and C. A. Woods. (1997). The status of the woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus) in Northern Pakistan. pp 495–514 in Biodiversity of Pakistan (S. A. Mufti, C. A, Woods, and S. A. Hasan eds.). Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Islamabad.
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