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.
Description: Highly variable in size and colour throughout its distribution. Its underparts are pale creamy to medium grey and may be tinged with yellow, but are never pure white or creamy white as the base of the fur is grey. The tail is furred evenly along its length, coloured dusky-grey, darkening to black distally. In Australia, the northern subspecies are smaller and shorter furred than the nominate subspecies that occurs in southern Australia.
This is the smallest species of Petaurus glider but is sometimes confused with the Squirrel Glider. However it is smaller, has a shorter blunter face, shorter and more oval ears, less bushy tail at the base, grey at the base of the ventral fur, and many individuals have a white tip to the tail.
Distribution: Has the widest distribution of any of the marsupial gliders, indeed of any marsupial in the Australasian region. Occurs throughout New Guinea and 27 surrounding islands, across northern Australia and down the east coast to eastern Australia and across to South Australia, and Tasmania where it is thought to have been introduced.
It is found on a variety of vegetation types from wet or dry sclerophyll, open woodland, primary montane forest, floodplain forest and even secondary regrowth in disused garden areas. This species also appears to prefer a more closed understorey dominated with various species of Acacia.
Reproduction: The mating system is typically polygynous. It nests in leaf-lined tree hollows where nesting communities consist of up to six adult males and females and their young, with one or two dominant males (that are usually older) who maintain the territory against other groups.
Northern Australian populations appear not to have a clear breeding season, though there is a peak in spring and summer, while southern populations appear to have a single breeding season beginning in late winter or early spring each year. One or two young are born.
Diet: In Australia it consists of plant exudates, including gum from Acacia, sap from Eucalyptus, and nectar and pollen from Eucalyptus and Banksia. Invertebrate food items include insects such as beetles, moths and weevils, and arachnids such as spiders.
In New Guinea the diet includes the fruits of figs (Ficus sp.) and pitpit (Saccharum sp.) as well as beetle larvae. In obtaining this food they have homeranges that are typically between 0.5 and 4.7 hectares.
Ecology: During cold or rainy weather this species can enter torpor that can last anything from two to 23 hours. Population density estimates range from
Status: Least Concern.
Petaurus breviceps breviceps — Eastern mainland Australia in New South Wales, Victoria, and the island of Tasmania where it is thought to have been introduced in the early to mid-1800s.
Petaurus breviceps ariel — Northern Western Australia (including Augustus Island) and northern Northern Territory (in Bathurst Island, Melville Island and Groote Eylandt).
Petaurus breviceps longicaudatus — Eastern and northern Queensland.
Petaurus breviceps papuanus — Indonesia including Papua and surrounding islands including Numfoor Island, Japen (or Yapen) Island, Salawati Island, Misool Island, Adi Island, Kai Besar Island, Batjan Island, Gebe Island, Halmahera Island and Ternate Island. Also occurs throughout Papua New Guinea and various surrounding islands including Bagabag Island, Bam Island, Blup Blup Island, Duke of York Island, Fergusson Island, Goodenough Island, Kadovar Island, Karkar Island, Koil Island, Misima Island, New Britain Island, Normandy Island, Tagula Island (also called Sudest Island), Vokeo Island, Wei Island and Woodlark Island.