The world’s gliding mammals are an extraordinary group of animals that have the ability to glide from tree to tree with seemingly effortless grace. There are more than 60 species of gliding mammals including the flying squirrels from Europe and North America, the scaly-tailed flying squirrels from central Africa and the gliding possums of Australia and New Guinea.
The Acrobatidae are a small family of gliding marsupials containing two genera, each with a single species, the feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus) from Australia and feather-tailed possum (Distoechurus pennatus) from New Guinea.
The Anomaluridae are a family of rodents found in central Africa. They are known as anomalures or scaly-tailed squirrels. The seven extant species are classified into three genera. Most are brightly coloured.
Colugos are arboreal gliding mammals found in Southeast Asia. Just two extant species make up the entire family Cynocephalidae and order Dermoptera. They are the most capable gliders of all gliding mammals, using flaps of extra skin between their legs to glide from higher to lower locations.
The family Petauridae includes 11 medium-sized possum species: four striped possums, six species of wrist-winged gliders in the genus Petaurus and Leadbeater’s possum, which has only vestigial gliding membranes. Most of the wrist-winged gliders are native to Australia, most of the striped possums (genus Dactylopsila) to New Guinea, but some members of each are found on both sides of the Torres Strait.
Pseudocheiridae is a family of arboreal marsupials containing 17 extant species of ringtailed possums and close relatives. They are found in forested areas and shrublands throughout Australia and New Guinea.
Flying squirrels (scientifically known as Pteromyini or Petauristini) are a tribe of 50 species of squirrels in the family Sciuridae. They are not capable of flight in the same way as birds or bats but are able to glide from one tree to another with the aid of a patagium, a furry, parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle.