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.

Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel

Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel / Trogopterus xanthipes
Trogopterus xanthipes

Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae, Pteromyini

Description: A medium-sized glider with a soft, greyish-yellow pelage. Its upper parts are dark, with black under-fur and its guard hairs are black at base with white to buff tips. It has a large orange spot behind its black-tipped round ears, while the base of its ears is a bright russet.

Its throat is white, and the remainder of its underparts are greyish, due to black under-fur and white tips of guard hairs. Its feet are black but its legs and the outer margins of its gliding membranes are orange. The upper side of its feet are dusky in colour.

Distribution: Ranges from south-eastern Tibet (= Xizang, China) and Liaoning, Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei, Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces in China. Within this region it occurs in subtropical forests on mountains and hills between 1300–2750 metres.

Reproduction: Mating takes place during mid to late December and early to mid-January. Pregnancy lasts for approximately 78–89 days after which time one to three young are born in early March to mid-April. The young appear to reach sexual maturity at about 22 months.

Diet: Feeds on the branches and leaves of Oriental Thuja (Platycladus orientalis), Rhododendron (Rhododendron micranthum), Liaodong Oak (Quercus liaotungensis), Chinese Red Pine (Pinus tabulaeformis), Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus), Thuja (Thuja sp.) and Hazel (Corylus sp.). Food found left in nest crevices included mountain apricot, mountain peach, hickory nuts and acorns.

Ecology: Lives in grottoes or crevices, most of which are situated 30 metres high, in the middle of cliffs. One individual occupied a nest, round in shape, 30–50 centimetres in diameter and made of sedges (Carex sp.) with the entrance also plugged with sedges. Observations of newly captured animals were found not to get along well with animals that were hand reared, and heated fights were observed between animals until 10–15 days after being introduced.

No fights were observed between animals caught from the same cliff, which included two females and six young that readily slept together in the same nest box. Animals kept in captivity have lived for more than 10 years, but there are no data on individuals in the wild. The collection of animals for their excrement (called faeces trogopterori) is widely used in Chinese and Korean medicine for the treatment of duodenal ulcers (by protecting the gastric mucosa) and for pain relief. This has contributed to the decline of animals in the wild.

Status: Near Threatened.

Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel / Trogopterus xanthipes
Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel
Trogopterus xanthipes
Distribution: Complex-toothed Flying Squirrel
HB200–305 mm
TL260–280 mm
HF56–60 mm

Other species:

Random species

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.