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Gliding and Striped Possums: Petauridae - Physical Characteristics

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Gliding and striped possums are arboreal, which means that they live in trees. They are also nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and sleep during the day, often in hollow trees. Members of this family are medium-sized. They measure between 12 and 31 inches (32 to 78 centimeters) long and weigh between 3 and 25 ounces (95 to 720 grams).

As the name of this family suggests, there are two major types of Petauridae. These two types are organized into groups called subfamilies. One subfamily is called Petaurinae, and the other is called Dactylopsilinae. The Petaurinae subfamily is the group known as the gliding possums. The Dactylopsilinae are the striped possums. Although they are closely related, these two subfamilies look quite different from each other.

Gliding possums are gray, brown, or cream colored. They have a membrane (a thin layer of skin) between their front and rear legs that stretches from their wrist to their ankle. When they leap from branch to branch, they spread this membrane out like a bed sheet in order to glide. Gliding possums also have a bushy tail that is used for steering while in the air. The end of their tail is prehensile, which means that it can be used for grasping branches.

Striped possums are black with two white stripes that run along their back like a skunk. Also like a skunk, these animals have a strong and unpleasant odor that is produced by several glands or organs that secrete chemicals from the body. Striped possums have five toes on their front paws. The fourth toe is much longer than the rest. They use this to tap tree trunks to find hollow spaces where insects might be hiding. Once they find the insects, they use this toe to dig them out. They also have very strong front teeth that help them to puncture the bark of trees.

Gliding and Striped Possums: Petauridae - Diet [next]

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