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.

Lord Derby’s Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel

Lord Derby’s Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel / Anomalurus derbianus
Anomalurus derbianus

Order: Rodentia
Family: Anomaluridae

Description: Its colour is highly variable, with upper parts ranging from brownish to reddish, with dark grey patagia, black ears and a silverish stripe on its nose. Its head is usually grey to silver-grey, with black hair around the base of its ears, sometimes reaching the eye. Its patagia have black bristle hairs along the edge behind the elbow strut. Its underparts and its patagium is generally white, but sometimes the underside of the membrane between its hind legs is brownish to blackish.

The base of its tail has 12–14 scales. The main variation is in the grey or russet tints on its back and shoulders. Its face is relatively short and round; its naked pinkish ears are set in a bed of dense velvet-black fur. Black bristles cover its hind claws.

Distribution: Occurs in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea (including Bioko Island), Gabon, Congo and northern Angola to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (= Zaire) border, Rwanda, Burundi and southern Uganda and south-west Kenya; also in eastern Tanzania, northern Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. Inhabits rainforests to relatively dry woodlands at various altitudes up to 2400 metres and is probably dependent upon the presence of abundant food trees. In the south-eastern part of its wide range it extends well into savannah woodland.

Reproduction: Usually only one young is born at a time (although there are records of two or three), towards the end of the rains in September to November. The young remains on a ledge, high up in a hollow tree, until almost fully grown. Both parents bring it food which is well masticated and carried in the mouth and cheeks, which are swollen with a wad as large as a tangerine.

Diet: Mainly bark of trees of the genera Strombosia, Klainedoxa and Neoboutonia. In Zaire it eats the fruit of Carapa and Syzygium, leaves of Myrianthus and the inner bark of Cynometra, Strombosia, Standtia, Klainedoxa and Pentadethra. It also eats fruits, flowers, leaves, nuts and occasionally ants and termites.

Ecology: Nocturnal, it lives in vertical hollow tree trunks with exit holes or cracks, as high as 40 metres. In some woodlands it may occupy empty beehives. During the daytime it rests in hollow trees, preferably in the virgin forest, from which it emerges just after sunset. It tends to nest alone although several individuals may share a denning tree.

It appears live in the same hole all year, changing holes only when fruit is ripe in another area. Individuals retain the use of their dens over very long periods, although seasonal shifts have been recorded. In some areas females are known to segregate to give birth and rear their young. As well as a threatening or defensive hiss and growl, this species also purrs and twitters. It likes to sunbathe in the early mornings and sometimes in the evenings.

The night is spent moving about the lower branches of tall trees and the smaller growth, often not more than 9 metres above the ground. At night it will travel, on average, 540 metres, with a home range of over 3 hectares. The density of this species has been found to be between 27–54 individuals per square kilometre. Known predators include the Blue Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis).

Status: Least Concern. Localised populations are at risk from forest clearance.

Lord Derby’s Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel / Anomalurus derbianus
Lord Derby’s Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel
Anomalurus derbianus
Distribution: Lord Derby’s Scaly-tailed Flying Squirrel
HB260–400 mm
TL175–360 mm
HF40–70 mm
M450–1100 g

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.