Logo: Gliding mammals of the world

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.

Malayan Colugo

Malayan Colugo / Galeopterus variegatus
Galeopterus variegatus

Order: Dermoptera
Family: Cynocephalidae

Description: Differs from the Philippine Colugo in having a lighter pelage and more spots. Most individuals are mottled greyish-brown with heavy black and white markings, but some are tinged reddish-brown or totally reddish-brown with few markings. Its underside is paler, and not spotted. Like the Philippine Colugo, its gliding membrane extends between the front and hind legs to fully enclose the tail; it also has small membranes between the fingers. It has no teeth at the front of the upper jaw and the two lower front teeth look like finely-toothed combs.

Distribution: Occurs throughout much of South-East Asia including southern Indochina from Burma, southern Thailand, southern Cambodia, southern Vietnam, Malayan peninsula, Singapore, Borneo, Java, Sumatra and numerous islands throughout this region. There are also dwarf forms in central Laos and on many of the smaller islands of the Sunda Shelf. The diversity of the animals from mainland South-East Asia, Java and Borneo suggests that these should be recognised as distinct species. Within this region they inhabit both lowlands and mountainous regions, living in primary and secondary forests, coconut plantations and rubber estates.

Reproduction: The gestation period is uncertain, but may be as long 180 days. Usually only one young is born at a time. The young lacks fur and is under-developed at birth. It stays with its mother for about six months and reaches maturity at two to three years of age.

Diet: Although colugos appear to live entirely on leaves, they also feed on the budding flowers of coconut palms, causing considerable damage to plantations. The Malayan Colugo has been observed at Poring in Borneo licking fluid oozing from a cut in the trunk of a coconut tree during heavy rain.

In Singapore they have been recorded to consume leaves of Hamtangen (Campnosperma auriculatum), Golden Flame (Peltophorum pterocarpum), Yellow Saraca (Saraca cauliflora) and Ash Malletwood (Rhodamnia cinerea). They have also been observed to feed on the leaves and fruit from three species of Syzygium, which constitutes up to 50 per cent of the diet.

Ecology: Mostly nocturnal, it is sometimes active in the morning and late afternoon. Totally arboreal, it seldom if ever comes to the ground, where it is quite helpless. It is usually noticed when climbing up the side of a tree or when gliding. When resting it retires to a tree hole or in the crowns of a tree about 35–50 metres above the ground. In a coconut plantation, it may spend the day curled up in a ball or hanging from a palm frond, with all four feet close together.

Sometimes several colugos will inhabit the same tree, but little is known of its social organisation. They can occur in densities of 55–60 animals per square kilometre. Known or potential predators of the Malayan Colugo include the changeable Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus), Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela), Reticulated Pythons (Python reticulatus), Crab-eating Macaques (Macaca fascicularis), Sumatran Tigers (Panthera tigris) and Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa).

Status: Least Concern.

Malayan Colugo / Galeopterus variegatus
Malayan Colugo
Galeopterus variegatus
Distribution: Malayan Colugo
HB340–420 mm
TL175–270 mm
HF64–73 mm
M925–1750 g

Galeopterus variegatus variegatus — Java.

Galeopterus variegatus borneanus — Borneo and surrounding islands including Natuna Islands (Bunguran, Laut, Natuna Besar, Serasan, Subi Islands) off the west coast, Balambangan and Banggi off the north coast of Borneo, Sebuku Island and Laut Island off south-eastern Borneo, and Karimata, Panebangan and Pelapis off south-western Borneo.

Galeopterus variegatus peninsulae — Southern Indochina including southern Burma, southern Thailand, southern Cambodia, southern Vietnam, Malayan peninsula and various islands including Anamba Islands (Siantan Island), Aor (Aur), Banyak, Butang Islands (Adang and Terutau Islands), Langkawi, Pangkor, Penang, Perhentian Island, Riau Islands (Batam, Bintan, Chombol, Durian, Galang, Great Karimon, Kundur, Sebang, Sugi Islands), Singapore, Tana Bala, Telo, Tinggi and Tioman. A dwarf form has been found in central Laos.

Galeopterus variegatus temminckii — Sumatra, Lingga Islands (Bakung, Penuba, Sebangka, Singkep Islands) and Bangka Island off eastern Sumatra and Rupat Island in the Straight of Malacca. Also occurs on the Banyak Islands (Tuangku and Bankaru Islands), Musala Island and Batu Islands off western Sumatra (Pini, Tana Bala, Tana Masa, Tello Islands).

Other species:

Greater Glider / Petauroides volans
Greater Glider

Petauroides volans

Philippine Colugo / Cynocephalus volans
Philippine Colugo

Cynocephalus volans

North Chinese Flying Squirrel / Aeretes melanopterus
North Chinese Flying Squirrel

Aeretes melanopterus

Black Flying Squirrel / Aeromys tephromelas
Black Flying Squirrel

Aeromys tephromelas

Random species

Biak Glider / Petaurus biacensis

Biak Glider
Petaurus biacensis

Sumatran Flying Squirrel / Hylopetes winstoni

Sumatran Flying Squirrel
Hylopetes winstoni

Gliding Mammals of the World provides, for the first time, a synthesis of all that is known about the biology of these intriguing mammals. It includes a brief description of each species, together with a distribution map and a beautiful full-color painting.

An introduction outlines the origins and biogeography of each group of gliding mammals and examines the incredible adaptations that allow them to launch themselves and glide from tree to tree.