Sugar Glider

The sugar glider is a small, omnivorous, arboreal gliding possum belonging to the marsupial infraclass. The common name refers to its preference for sugary nectarous foods and ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel. Due to convergent evolution, they have very similar appearance and habits to the flying squirrel, but are not closely related. The scientific name, Petaurus breviceps, translates from Latin as "short-headed rope-dancer", a reference to their canopy acrobatics.

The sugar glider is native to eastern and northern mainland Australia. The sugar glider was introduced to Tasmania in 1835. This is supported by the absence of skeletal remains in subfossil bone deposits and the lack of an Aboriginal Tasmanian name for the animal. It is also native to various islands in the region.

They can be found in any forest where there is a suitable food supply, but most are commonly found in forests with eucalyptus trees. Being nocturnal, they sleep in their nests during the day and are active at night. During the night they hunt insects and small vertebrates, and feed on the sweet sap of certain species of eucalyptus, acacia and gum trees. They are arboreal, spending most of their lives in trees. When suitable habitats are present, sugar gliders can be seen 1 per 1,000 square metres, provided there are tree hollows available for shelter.

The sugar glider has a squirrel-like body with a long, partially (weakly) prehensile tail. The males are larger than the females and have bald patches on their head and chest; their length from the nose to the tip of the tail is about 24 to 30 cm (12–13 inches, the body itself is approx. 5–6 inches). A sugar glider has a thick, soft fur coat that is usually blue-grey; some have been known to be yellow, tan or (rarely) albino.[a] A black stripe is seen from its nose to midway on its back. Its belly, throat, and chest are cream in colour.

Being nocturnal, its large eyes help it to see at night, and its ears swivel to help locate prey in the dark. It has five digits on each foot, each having a claw, except for the opposable toe on the hind feet. Also on the hind feet, the second and third digits are partially syndactylous (fused together), forming a grooming comb. Its most striking feature is the patagium, or membrane, that extends from the fifth finger to the first toe. When legs are stretched out, this membrane allows the sugar glider to glide a considerable distance.

The female has a marsupium (pouch) in the middle of her abdomen to carry offspring. In the wild they can live up to 9 years; typically up to 12 years in captivity; in zoos, maximum reported is 17.8 years.