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.

Philippine Colugo

Philippine Colugo / Cynocephalus volans
Cynocephalus volans

Order: Dermoptera
Family: Cynocephalidae

Description: Highly distinctive and easily identified from other gliding mammals which occur in the Philippines because of the gliding membranes that enclose the tail and are between the fingers. Its dentition is also distinctive — unlike any other mammal it (and the Malayan Colugo) has no teeth at the front of the upper jaw and the two lower front teeth that look like finely-toothed combs.

Distribution: Occurs on the southern Philippine islands including Basilan, Biliran, Bohol, Dinagat, Leyte, Maripipi, Mindanao, Samar, Siargao and Tongquil Islands. Common in primary and secondary forest, and in mixed forest and orchards, from sea level to 500 metres elevation, on small islands and up to approximately 1100 metres on Mindanao Island.

Reproduction: Limited observations suggest it breeds throughout the year, even while carrying young, with a peak between March and May. The female usually produces only one young, though there are records of two, after an estimated gestation period of 150 days (which strongly contrasts with that recorded for the Malayan Colugo) and are estimated to be weaned after some 200 days.

Diet: Primarily a folivore, it feeds on a wide variety leaves and buds (often from cultivated trees) but also on fruit. The main families and genera of its food plants include Rosaceae (Pygeum sp.), Burseraceae (Canarium sp.), Casuarinaceae (Casuarina equisetifolia), Dipterocarpaceae (Shorea sp.), Elaeocarpaceae (Elaeocarpus sp.), Phyllanthaceae (Breynia sp.), Fagaceae (Lithocarpus sp. and Castanopsis sp.), Lauraceae (Cinnamomum sp., Litsea sp., Neolitsea sp., Persea americana), Melastomataceae (Astrocalyx sp.), Moraeceae (Artocarpus heterophylla, Ficus sp.), Myrsinaceae (Discoralyx sp.), Myrtaceae (Syzigium sp. and Cleistocalyx sp.) and Sapotaceae (Chrysophyllum cainito, Palaquium sp.).

It appears to forage many times throughout the night for a short duration (3–14 minutes) in several trees of each species. The peak of foraging occurs just after sunset and a few hours before sunrise. The distance travelled during the night ranges from 1000 metres to over 1700 metres.

Ecology: During the day it rests by hanging upside down within dense foliage or on shaded portions of upper tree trunks of large trees where the mottled colouration of the fur camouflages it. It also nests within holes in trees such as the Lebbek Tree (Albizia lebbeck), Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Adam’s Fig (Ficus adamii), White Beech (Gmelina arborea), Bogo (Korrdersiodendron pinnatum), Pygeum sp. and Sky Fruit (Swietenia macrophylla).

Its nesting hole ranges from 25 centimetres to 1 metre in diameter. Although the males tend to be quarrelsome, a number of individuals may utilise the same nest tree. Known predators of this species include the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).

Status: Least Concern. Despite widespread destruction of lowland forest, which makes them somewhat vulnerable, their ability to persist in disturbed forest has resulted in them being still widespread and common, with stable populations.

Philippine Colugo / Cynocephalus volans
Philippine Colugo
Cynocephalus volans
Distribution: Philippine Colugo
HB330–414 mm
TL220–270 mm
HFc. 88 mm
M1000–1500 g

Other species:

Squirrel Glider / Petaurus norfolcensis
Squirrel Glider

Petaurus norfolcensis

Greater Glider / Petauroides volans
Greater Glider

Petauroides volans

Malayan Colugo / Galeopterus variegatus
Malayan Colugo

Galeopterus variegatus

North Chinese Flying Squirrel / Aeretes melanopterus
North Chinese Flying Squirrel

Aeretes melanopterus

Random species

Philippine Colugo / Cynocephalus volans

Philippine Colugo
Cynocephalus volans

Javanese Flying Squirrel / Iomys horsfieldi

Javanese Flying Squirrel
Iomys horsfieldi

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.