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.
Family: Sciuridae, Pteromyini
Description: Looks superficially similar to the Northern Flying Squirrel but is less robust and has a smaller body. The upper parts of its body have pinkishcinnamon, brownish or yellowish-brown fur according to season and subspecies.
The sides of its face are smoky grey, often washed with grey or yellowish. Its tail above is a variable brown, dark grey or drab, while below it varies from pinkish-cinnamon to pinkish-buff. Its underparts are white or creamy white, often with cinnamon or pinkish-buff sides, with hairs that are white or whitish at base, except on its gliding membrane and hind legs where they are lead-grey at the base.
Distribution: Occurs primarily in central and southern North America, extending as far south as Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Throughout its distribution it generally inhabits mature deciduous forests, although it may be found in coniferous forests.
Reproduction: Females are polyestrous, usually producing two litters per year. Mating in northern latitudes occurs from February or early March with a peak of litters in March/April. A second breeding season occurs in June/July with a peak of litters in August. Litters are typically of two or three individuals but can range from one to six.
A study in Florida found that litters are born from late August to early January, and there was only one possible case of a female producing two litters in a year. Therefore, there appears to be a shift in breeding season from a spring—autumn breeding in northern latitudes, to late summer—winter in the southern part of its range.
Diet: Consists mainly of seeds, nuts and underground truffles, but includes a wide variety of food sources such as corn, birds, bird eggs, berries, acorns, birch catkins, beetles and insects. It also stores food such as acorns for use during winter.
Ecology: Appears to choose mature pine-hardwood forest (where available) for nesting, constructing cavity nests both outside and inside the tree, including standing dead trees. In Florida, nests have also been observed 30 centimetres below ground, under a stump.
The home ranges of males are nearly twice that of females with home ranges of
Status: Least Concern.
Note: Following a series of warm winters, the Southern Flying Squirrel in Ontario rapidly expanded its northern range limit, resulting in increased sympatry with the closely related Northern Flying Squirrel.
Hybridisation has occurred and appears to be a result of a range expansion induced by climate change. In
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