Overview

Distribution

Range Description

The Squirrel Glider occurs in a broad band from Cape York Peninsula (Queensland) to central Victoria, extending to the coastal side of the Great Dividing Range between southern Queensland and central New South Wales. It is also possibly present in Bordertown, South Australia where it was last recorded in 1990 (van der Ree and Suckling 2008). It occurs from sea level up to at least 1,200 m asl.
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Geographic Range

Populations of Petaurus norfolcensis are distributed throughout eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Victoria, and southeast South Australia (Nowak 1999).

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Squirrel gliders, Petaurus norfolcensis, are similar to sugar gliders, Petaurus breviceps, in general appearance, but are twice as large (Nowak 1999). They have more distinct facial markings, a longer face, and a bushier tail than P. breviceps (Suckling 1995). At times though, these two species can only be reliably distinguished by the larger molar teeth of P. norfolcensis (Smith 1979).

Squirrel gliders have pale grey fur on their dorsal surface, with a dark brown or black stripe down the middle (Barrett 1955). They possess a prehensile tail, an opposable hallux (Feldhamer 1999), and a long gliding membrane that extends from the outside of the forefoot to the ankle (Nowak 1999).

Squirrel gliders have long, sharp, diprotodont lower incisors. Their molars are bunodont, and they possess a total of 40 teeth (Feldhamer 1999).

Range mass: 190 to 300 g.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is associated with dry open forest and woodland, tall coastal forest and Banksia woodland in the north-east of its distribution, and ionbark-lemon-scented gum-forest red gum association in north Queensland (Maxwell et al. 1996). They are also in rainforest in south-east Queensland and urban environments such as suburban Brisbane.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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In south-eastern Australia, P. norfolcensis occupies dry sclerophyll forest and woodlands, but is absent from the dense coastal ranges. In northern New South Wales and Queensland it inhabits coastal forest and some wet forest areas that border rainforest (Suckling 1995).

In some habitats density of P. norfolcensis is as high as 3 individuals per hectare (Suckling 1995).

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

The squirrel glider is an omnivorous species. Typical foods in the diet of P. norfolcensis include insects (mainly beetles and caterpillars), acacia gum, sap from certain eucalypts, nectar, pollen, and the green seeds of the Golden Wattle (Nowak 1999). Nectar and pollen are the most important dietary items, but in the absence of these foods the squirrel glider will more heavily utilize sap and gum (Nowak 1999).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
11.9 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 14.8 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

The breeding season in P. norfolcensis occurs during June and July, with a gestation period that lasts slightly less than three weeks (Suckling 1995, Nowak 1999). During the breeding season, female P. norfolcensis exhibit a well-developed pouch (Nowak 1999) that is maintained through December (Smith 1979). This pouch opens anteriorly (Feldhamer 1999) and has four nipples (Smith 1979). In the months of January through May, the female's pouch becomes small and dry, indicating anestrus. Male P. norfolcensis produce sperm throughout the year (Smith 1979).

The typical litter consists of one or two young (Nowak 1999). These young stay in the mother's pouch for approximately 70 days after parturition. The young are fully furred at approximately 76 days and eyes open at 84-85 days (Smith 1979). The young will remain in the nest for another 40-50 days after emerging from the pouch. At the age of 110-120 days, the young of P. norfolcensis begin to venture out and forage with their mother (Suckling 1995).

Average gestation period: 20 days.

Average number of offspring: 1.5.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Winter, J., Lunney, D., Denny, M., Burnett, S. & Menkhorst, P.

Reviewer/s
Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/near threatened
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
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The squirrel glider may be endangered in the southern part of its range, due to the mass clearing of woodland for agriculture and forest operations. This impacts P. norfolcensis by decreasing the abundance of tree hollows which it relies on for nesting sites (Suckling 1995).

Lunney (1987) found that the effects of logging, especially when compounded with exposure to drought and fire, have a negative impact on glider species, reducing the habitability of an area. Deep gullies, unaffected by logging, were found to be crucial refuges for gliders. It is recommended that these gullies be maintained and protected in order to conserve habitat for all species of gliders.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
It is patchily distributed, and can be locally common or scarce.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
There is steady attrition of quality and extent of habitat remnants due to removal of timber both for sawn products and firewood. There is also a lack of suitable hollows in most habitat remnants on the inland slopes and regeneration of trees and shrubs is hindered by grazing by stock, rabbits, macropods, and inappropriate fire regimes. Coastal developments and clearance of forest remnants in New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland also adversely affect this species (van der Ree and Suckling 2008).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Recommended actions (Maxwell et al. 1996) include: develop national recovery plan and establish recovery team. The Plan should incorporate the Victoria Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement, which should be published and implemented. It should also examine what amendments are needed to current forest management practices to enhance Squirrel Glider habitat; monitor persistence and abundance throughout range, particularly at peripheral and isolated sites. This is especially urgent for inland populations in New South Wales and Queensland, where range also needs to be documented more accurately; reassess the evidence of presence in coastal forests of southern New South Wales. Conduct further, carefully-targeted, surveys if necessary; use biochemical taxonomic techniques to examine the possible differences between coastal and inland populations; conduct further research into the ecological requirements of the species and the impacts of habitat alterations, including timber removal, silviculture and grazing; further habitat protection in State forests, parks, and on private property is needed, especially in areas of box-ironbark in northern Victoria and western New South Wales, and areas of grey gum-grey ironbark-spotted gum from near Sydney to the Queensland-New South Wales border.
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Wikipedia

Squirrel glider

The squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is a nocturnal[3] gliding possum[4] The Squirrel Glider is one of the wrist-winged gliders of the Petaurus genus.

Habitat[edit]

This species' home range extends from Bordertown near the South Australian/Victorian Border through south-eastern Australia to northern Queensland. This species was thought to be extinct in South Australia since 1939 until a genetic test confirmed their inhabitance in this area.[5]

The Squirrel Glider lives in south-eastern Australia in the dry sclerophyll forest and woodlands. In Queensland, however, they occupy a wetter eucalypt forest.[5]

The glider will make a den in the hollow tree and line it with leaves. Here it will sleep and usually lives in groups of one male, 2 females, and offspring.[6]

Appearance[edit]

Like most of the wrist-winged gliders, the Squirrel Glider is endemic to Australia. It is about twice the size of the related Sugar Glider (P. breviceps). Its body is 18–23 cm long and its tail measures at 22–33 cm long.[5] It weighs about 230g or 0.5 lbs.[6] They have blue-grey or brown-grey fur on their back and a white belly. The end of their tail is black and they have ha black stripe from their eyes to the mid-back.[5] They have a flying membrane that extends from their 5th front toe to the back of their foot on both sides. When they glide their prehensile tail can act as a rudder, allowing them to steer which direction they want to go.[7] They can glide up to 50m from tree to tree.[6] They tend not to glide in captivity.

Reproduction[edit]

The breeding season is between June and January. The gestation/pregnancy of a female is 18 days.[7] The litter sizes are usually one to two offspring a year.[6] The offspring will immediately crawl to the mother's marsupium and anchor itself to a teat were it will stay for about 3 months.[7][8] The mother will wean off her offspring around 4 months were they stay in the den. The offspring become independent at 10 months and go off on their own. The life expectancy is 4–6 years.[6]

Diet[edit]

Squirrel Glider at
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

The Squirrel Glider eats mostly fruit and insects.[9][10] It also feeds on tree sap, mainly Eucalypt or Red Bloodwood trees. In order to get the sap the Squirrel glider will pierce the trunk of the tree causing sap to flow out of it. It also eats pollen, nectar, leaves, and bark.[6][11]

Predators[edit]

The species is threatened by humans clearing and breaking up their habitats. It also has predators of dogs, cats, foxes, and owls. This causes the species to be put on the Near Threatened list, meaning it is close to being a threatened species.[6][12]

Phylogeny[edit]

The Squirrel Glider's closest relatives come from the same genus, Petaurus and they include the Sugar Glider (P. breviceps), Mahogany glider (P. gracilis), Northern glider(P. abidi), Biak Glider(P. biacensis) and Yellow-Bellied glider (P. australis). It is not yet known which species the gliders diverged from. The Squirrel Glider most likely evolved from a marsupial like a possum that had membranes for gliding. Other animals that have this same ancestor include Striped possum and Leadbeaters possum.

Analogous Structures[edit]

Squirrel Gliders are often mistaken for flying squirrels of North America. These two species aren’t related at all. The Flying Squirrel is a placental mammal and the Squirrel glider is a marsupial like koalas and kangaroos. Both have an adaptation for tree living – Patagia. This is the skin that extends from their front to hind legs allowing them to glide between the trees avoiding predators they might come into contact with on the ground. Because these animals are distantly related we call these characteristics analogous.

Homologous Structures[edit]

Squirrel gliders are able to curl their tails around branches to hold on. This feature is homologous to the ring tail possum (order of Diprodontia) which use their tail as an extra limb to grab hold of trees. It is longer but the squirrel gliders tail is bushier.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 55. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Winter, J., Lunney, D., Denny, M., Burnett, S. & Menkhorst, P. (2008). Petaurus norfolcensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ Petaurus
  4. ^ Gliding Possums — Environment, New South Wales Government
  5. ^ a b c d http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/biodiversity/southeast-bcp/pdfs/gliders.pdf
  6. ^ a b c d e f g http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Diprotodontia/Petauridae/Petaurus/Petaurus-norfolcensis.html
  7. ^ a b c http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Petaurus_norfolcensis.html
  8. ^ http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/threatened-species/squirrel-glider
  9. ^ Menkhorst, P. and Knight, F. (2001). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press (pp. 94-95). ISBN 0-19-550870-X
  10. ^ Wildlife of Tropical North Queensland (First printed in 2000). Queensland Museum Publication (p. 337). ISBN 0-7242-9349-3
  11. ^ http://www4.gu.edu.au:8080/adt-root/uploads/approved/adt-QGU20030228.142139/public/01Front.pdf
  12. ^ http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/16728/0

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cronin, Leonard — "Key Guide to Australian Mammals", published by Reed Books Pty. Ltd., Sydney, 1991 ISBN 0 7301 03552
  • van der Beld, John — "Nature of Australia — A portrait of the island continent", co-published by William Collins Pty. Ltd. and ABC Enterprises for the Australian Boadcasting Corporation, Sydney, 1988 (revised edition 1992), ISBN 0 7333 0241 6
  • Russell, Rupert — "Spotlight on Possums", published by University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, Queensland, 1980, ISBN 0 7022 14787
  • Troughton, Ellis — "Furred Animals of Australia", published by Angus and Robertson (Publishers) Pty. Ltd, Sydney, in 1941 (revised edition 1973), ISBN 0 207 12256 3
  • Morcombe, Michael & Irene — "Mammals of Australia", published by Australian Universities Press Pty. Ltd, Sydney, 1974, ISBN 0 7249 00179
  • Ride, W. D. L. — "A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia", published by Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1970, ISBN 19 550252 3
  • Serventy, Vincent — "Wildlife of Australia", published by Thomas Nelson (Australia) Ltd., Melbourne, 1968 (revised edition 1977), ISBN 0 17 005168 4
  • Serventy, Vincent (editor) — "Australia's Wildlife Heritage", published by Paul Hamlyn Pty. Ltd., Sydney, 1975 of the marsupial family Petauridae.
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