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Sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) are small marsupials that live in the wilds of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern and northern portions of Australia. The furry, tree-dwelling critters aren't only found out in nature, but also as pets. Sugar gliders possess a handful of adaptations that help them survive in the wild.
Sugar gliders can't legitimately fly, but the skin flaps that are attached from their front limbs to their back legs enable them -- as their names convey -- to glide with ease. They use these membranes to travel between trees. Their thick coats are grayish-blue in color, although their undersides are white. Their faces also display a little bit of white. Sugar gliders' bodies are adorned with several black streaks, including ones that go all the way down the center of their backs and others that appear on the edges of their faces. Mature sugar gliders grow to about 6 inches long. Adult specimens usually weigh around 6 ounces.
The aforementioned skin flaps -- or patagiums -- that are so characteristic of sugar gliders are extremely helpful in their survival. They regularly employ these membranes and adept gliding skills as a means of getting out of perilous situations and away from frightening predators, namely cats and foxes. Although their gliding can be beneficial for fleeing non-flying predators, it doesn't help much against winged predators such as owls.
The eyes are extremely conspicuous physical traits of these nocturnal animals. Because they are so immense compared with the overall size of a sugar glider, they assist these critters as they scour for food in the dark. The sugar glider diet consists mainly of items such as pollen, blossoms, sugary sap, bugs, bug larvae, nectar and arachnids.
Sugar gliders possess claws that are markedly pointy and substantial, which makes climbing around a much easier task for these guys. Tree climbing helps sugar gliders hide from some land predators. Their claws are effective for clutching limbs as they land from a glide; they're razor-sharp and capable of hooking onto branches quickly and securely.
These furry creatures have prehensile tails, which means that they can do a lot with them, from clutching to carrying things. Their lengthy tails also help steer their bodies as they glide through the air. Like their claws, these tails can also come in handy for climbing.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Petaurus Breviceps
- Lincoln Park Zoo: Sugar Glider
- Australian Museum: Sugar Glider
- Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park: Sugar Gliders
- International Union for the Conservation of Species Red List of Threatened Species: Petaurus breviceps
- American Museum of Natural History: Sugar Gliders
- Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland: Sugar Glider
- Smith College Clark Science Center: Petaurus Breviceps
- Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment: Sugar Glider
- Sugar Gliders; Kristin Petrie
- Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images