Feather-Tailed Possums: Acrobatidae
Pygmy Glider (acrobates Pygmaeus): Species Account
Physical characteristics: The pygmy glider is the smalles marsupial that is able to glide. They weigh less than 0.5 ounces (14 grams)> Their head and body measure between 2.5 and 3 inches (6.5 to 8 centimeters) in length. Their tail is also usually about 2.5 to 3 inches (6.5 to 8 centimeters) long. Females have pouches that contain four nipples.
Pygmy gliders have fur that is soft and gray. Around their large eyes are circles of black fur. Their belly is white. The pygmy glider's tail is about as long as its body and has long stiff hairs on each side of it. A membrane with fur on it is attached to either side of the pygmy glider's body from its front feet to its back feet.
Geographic range: Pygmy gliders are found in eastern Australia.
Habitat: Pygmy gliders live in forest areas where there are many
eucalyptus trees. They also live in woodland areas.
Diet: Pygmy gliders eat mainly insects. They also eat nectar
Behavior and reproduction: Pygmy gliders are nocturnal. They live in trees and rarely spend any time on the forest floor, where they would be vulnerable to predators. Pygmy gliders are very social animals. They build nests out of leaves in branches and holes in trees. Many pygmy gliders live together in one nest. When it gets cold, they often huddle together to share warmth. When it gets especially cold or there is not enough food, pygmy gliders can go into torpor. Torpor is when the animal purposely lowers its body temperature and heart rate temporarily to conserve energy, similar to hibernation.
Pygmy gliders glide by jumping and then spreading their hands and feet so that their special membrane becomes stretched out. This membrane acts like a parachute so that the pygmy glider glides instead of falling. The feather-like tail is used to help control the glide. This way they are able to glide distances of up to 65 feet (20 meters) or more at a time. Because they live in trees and almost never go down to ground level, gliding is an important way for this species to move from tree to tree.
Pygmy gliders usually have three or four offspring at a time. The mother gives birth to young that are not able to fend for themselves. The young crawl into her pouch where they continue to grow. Once the young have fur and are a little older, they sometimes ride around on their mother's back. After about sixty days, they leave the pouch and stay in the nest alone. They stay in the nest for another thirty-five or forty days. At this time the young are weaned, although they might not leave the nest. The day that the babies are born, the mother mates and gets pregnant again. The new fetuses stop developing until just before the young have been weaned. This means that the mother gives birth again just a day or two after the last set of young has stopped nursing.
Pygmy gliders and people: Pygmy gliders are not known to have special significance to people except to the scientists who study them.
Conservation status: Pygmy gliders are not considered threatened. They are not at risk of extinction in the wild in the foreseeable future. ∎
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Smith, Andrew, and John Winter. A Key and Field Guide to the Australian Possums, Gliders and Koala. Chipping Norton, Australia: Surrey Beatty and Sons, 1997.
Fenton, Julie A. Kangaroos and Other Marsupials. Chicago: World Book Inc., 2000.
Australian National Parks and Wildlife. "Gliding possums." http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Gliding+possums (accessed on June 30, 2004).
Animal Life ResourceMammalsFeather-Tailed Possums: Acrobatidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Pygmy Glider (acrobates Pygmaeus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, FEATHER-TAILED POSSUMS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS