1 minute read

Colugos: Dermoptera

Physical Characteristics

Colugos are commonly referred to as flying lemurs, even though they do not technically fly and they are not lemurs, primate mammals found in Madagascar. Colugos are about the size of a cat, approximately 20 inches (75 centimeters) long. They weigh about 3 pounds (1.35 kilograms).

Their ability to glide—not fly—is due to their most distinctive feature, after which they are named. The order they belong to, Dermoptera, means "skin wings" in Greek, referring to the flap of skin that extends between the front and hind limbs. This thin layer of skin or membrane is called a patagium (pah-TAY-jee-um). The patagium stretches from the side of the neck to the tips of its fingers, toes, and tail. When the front and hind legs are spread out, the patagium allows the colugo to glide like a kite. The patagium also acts as a parachute, catching air inside of it as it jumps. This parachute effect prevents colugos from losing too much height as they move between trees.

Colugos resemble lemurs, with long noses and wide bulging eyes. The shape of their head and snout is similar to a greyhound dog. They have small round ears and sharp claws.

The fur of male colugos is generally brown to red-brown and in females the fur is grayish brown. Malayan colugos have white spots on their fur, but Philippine colugos do not. The underside of the animal is a lighter orange-yellow, orange, or brownish red color.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsColugos: Dermoptera - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Malayan Colugo (cynocephalus Variegatus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, COLUGOS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS