The sugar glider is a small, arboreal, possum that belongs to the marsupial family.
The sugar glider is found in wooded areas with open forest.
The common name refers to its predilection for sugary foods such as sap and nectar and its ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel.
It is also known as aymows or kajben in the Kalam language of Papua New Guinea, or yegang in the Asai Valley dialect of Kalam. The Bininj of western Arnhem Land, Australia call this animal Lumbalk in their Kunwinjku language.
Its scientific name, Petaurus breviceps, translates from Latin as “short-headed rope-dancer”, a reference to their canopy acrobatics.
The lifespan for sugar gliders is from 10 to 12 years in the wild, and about 14 years in captivity.
The sugar glider has a squirrel-like body with a long, partially (weakly) prehensile tail.
The length from the nose to the tip of the tail is from 24 to 30 cm (9 to 12 inches), and males and females weigh from 115 to 140 grams (4 to 5 oz) .
The fur coat on the sugar glider is thick, soft, and is usually blue-grey – although some have been known to be yellow, tan or (rarely) albino. A black stripe is seen from its nose to midway on its back. Its belly, throat, and chest are cream in colour.
Heart rate range is 200–300 beats per minute, and respiratory rate is 16–40 breaths per minute.
The sugar glider is characterised by its gliding membrane, known as the patagium, which extends from its forelegs to its hindlegs, one on each side of its body.
A sugar glider’s glide can reach about 50 meters (165 feet).
For every 1.82 m (6 feet) travelled horizontally when gliding, sugar gliders fall 1 m (3 feet). Sugar gliders can steer by moving their limbs and adjusting the tension of their gliding membrane – for example, to turn left, a sugar glider will lower its left forearm below its right.
Gliding serves as an efficient means of reaching food and evading predators.
The sugar glider is nocturnal – its large eyes help it to see at night and its ears swivel to help locate prey in the dark. It shelter during the day in tree hollows lined with leafy twigs.
Sugar gliders are omnivorous. They are especially found of the sweet sap which can be found in the eucalyptus tree. Their diet also includes pollen, nectar, insects and their larvae, arachnids, and small vertebrates.
Sugar gliders can leap out to catch flying insects midair.
Sugar gliders are highly social animals. They live in family groups or colonies consisting of up to seven adults, plus the current season’s young. Up to four age classes may exist within each group, although some sugar gliders are solitary, not belonging to a group. They engage in social grooming, which in addition to improving hygiene and health, helps bond the colony and establish group identity.
Sugar gliders usually give birth to 1-2 babies at a time. After birth, the tiny young (joeys) migrate to the pouch where they remain for 70-74 days, at which time they leave the pouch for good. Youngsters often leave their natal group by 10 to 12 months of age.
The sugar glider is not considered endangered, and its conservation rank is “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.
Around the world, the sugar glider is a popular domestic pet.
Sugar gliders are most popular as pets in the United States, where they are bred in large numbers. Moststates and cities allow sugar gliders as pets, with some exceptions.
Sugar gliders are one of five “lesser gliding possum” species.
They look and act much like a flying squirrel, but they are not related.