Look, up in the sky! It's a flying squirrel! No, wait--a sugar glider!
September 5, 2019 10:59 AM   Subscribe

They're small, they're furry, and they can glide from tree to tree at distances of 50 meters or more thanks to patagium, the same connective tissue structure that allows bats to fly. Yes, it's the sugar glider! Using its patagium as a parachute, the sugar glider will coast through the air from tree to tree, using its tail as an adorable rudder. "But wait," you say, "isn't that a flying squirrel?" While similar, sugar gliders evolved independently and are more closely related to their fellow marsupials (such as possums) than to placental mammals--an example of convergent evolution at work. Want more convergent evolution? Past FPPs include the hummingbird hawk-moth, often mistaken for its avian namesake, and the thylacine, an extinct marsupial with a strikingly canine bone structure. Bonus sugar glider content: a 19-second slo-mo gliding video.
posted by sugar and confetti (26 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
omg the slo-mo gliding video! I loved seeing the little furry rectangle unfurl and float along.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:35 AM on September 5


The weirdest gliding mammal has got to be the colugo, the closest relative of the primates. It's a cross between a lemur, a bat, and a big flap of skin.
posted by painquale at 11:52 AM on September 5


So, not a flying squirrel, more of an Assault Opossum.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:13 PM on September 5 [6 favorites]


Bifurcated penises! Little baby protecto pads! hind leg thumbs! I learned a lot, so great.
posted by jessamyn at 12:21 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Obligatory but likely unneeded for MeFi:

Please do not keep sugar gliders as pets. They take an incredible amount of active care and socialization and by most reliable accounts they really don't like to be kept as pets in the same way that a domesticated fancy rat, guinea pig or bunny might be a decent pet.

Source: I wanted sugar gliders as pets and did a lot of homework, which informed me that I was definitely not qualified to care for them no matter how much I really wanted them as a cute, furry flying pocket pet.

The research I did informed me that proper sugar glider care was something like one or two orders of magnitude more involved and difficult than even other notably difficult exotic/wild pets such as a raccoon. Or maybe even a human toddler.

I'm kind of not joking about the toddler. I remember reading a blog post from way back that was saying something like "Having children was actually easier than keeping and raising sugar gliders and keeping them healthy and happy." from the angle that sugar gliders really have a lot of social, environmental and dietary needs, with the punchline that if the idea of raising children or having kids terrified you then you definitely should not attempt to care for sugar gliders.

There are people that have sugar gliders. And these people who are really into it and ostensibly "doing it right" were really intense, like some of the most intense pet/animal owners I've seen.

And one of the things I learned is that even the best, most active sugar glider keepers with care levels that meet or exceed a professional, non-shitty zoo or refuge had a common message and it was basically "OH MY GOD DON'T DO IT! PLEASE DON'T KEEP SUGAR GLIDERS AS PETS! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE IN FOR!"

I still want one, though, because they're so cute I just can't stand it and it makes me want to bite things.
posted by loquacious at 12:29 PM on September 5 [17 favorites]


I approve of this interpretation of Post Your Animal
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:42 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]




"endemic to Australia and New Guinea but have also been introduced to Tasmania"...

Not to be picky, but Tasmania IS part of Australia... A better way to phrase this would be that they were "introduced from the mainland of Australia to Tasmania".

There were actually introduced in the 1800s and have been a pain there...

Sorry to be a pedant. As you were...
posted by greenhornet at 1:02 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Building on what loquacious wrote, above: a co-worker had some for a few months. They're little horrors, and I was regaled with stories of cannibalism, attacks on humans, and a persistent smell of urine. And these are animal-lovers, one of whom is a science teacher with a science degree and OH GOD NO.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:29 PM on September 5


One year (maybe 2009 or so?) our state fair had someone selling sugar gliders in the commercial area. My response based on what I knew of them was WHY IS THIS SHIT ALLOWED and presumably I was not alone in that view because they have not been back in the decade since.
posted by jackbishop at 1:45 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Six-year-old me sees films of flying squirrels or sugar gliders; thinks, "my bed sheet tied at my ankles and gripped in my hands... seems pretty similar..." and heads to the garage roof.
At least I had the sense to pick/make a soft landing zone in case it didn't work out.
posted by coppertop at 1:51 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


I live in sugar glider territory. One morning, while out on a bush walk, I came across a fresh dead sugar glider at the base of a tree. Broken neck. Must have missed the branch and slammed into the trunk. Might have been chased by the local powerful owl who snacks on these sweet treats. So cute and so dead.
posted by Thella at 2:20 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I love sitting quietly in the bush, waiting for the tail end of dusk, for the gliders to emerge and set sail. Also amusing: overhearing chattering squabbles in their nests, when a snoozing someone turns over to get comfy, and ends up jabbing a foot in someone else's face :-D
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 2:59 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


My high school girlfriend’s family kept a sugar glider as a family pet. Isabel, I think. I was a bit startling to have an airborne squirrel-analogue land on your head and insistently crawl toward one’s eye/nose/mouth combo in search of kisses and or treats.

Inarguably adorable, once one had steeled one’s self.
posted by mwhybark at 4:15 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I almost got talked into buying a sugar glider at a somewhat-shady pet store a few years ago. Luckily, I did some hasty phone research, and figured out it wasn't for me.

But there's a tiny part of me that wonders what life would have been like with an adorable sugar glider zipping around all over the place.

I was going to name him Errol.
posted by MrVisible at 7:36 PM on September 5


It enrages me that Americans have somehow managed to get our Australian native wildlife (most likely through smuggling) and keep them as pets. They’re wild animals! They belong in the bush in Australia not in a cage half a world away. It would be the equivalent of finding a native US squirrel kept as a pet in Australia. It’s just downright cruel and bizarre. The entire practise should be banned.
posted by Jubey at 7:51 PM on September 5 [9 favorites]


I remember the first time I saw a hummingbird moth camping at Dolly Sods in West Virginia (it wasn't camping, we were.) We were certain that it was a mutant creation of a local mad scientist. TMBG even has a song about them.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:54 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Every time I see a slo-mo video of a male flying squirrel or sugar glider (and I watch them more often than most people, I'd wager) I momentarily revert to pre-adolescence and snicker at the lil balls.
posted by sugar and confetti at 8:13 PM on September 5


They belong in the bush in Australia not in a cage half a world away.

I agree with you, and it’s inappropriate that these critters were sold as pets. I do assure you Isabel knew no cage, excepting time before her years with my girlfriend’s family. She had the run of the house and yard. Which meant one had to be constantly on one’s guard.
posted by mwhybark at 10:19 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


It enrages me that Americans have somehow managed to get our Australian native wildlife (most likely through smuggling) and keep them as pets. They’re wild animals! They belong in the bush in Australia not in a cage half a world away. It’s just downright cruel and bizarre. The entire practise should be banned.

100% agree. I truly loathe reading about the caged Australian birds and animals that Americans keep. It's a terrible practice and I think less of anyone who considers keeping wild animals in cages is an OK thing to do. Stop buying Australia's native wildlife. Just stop it. You are supporting an unethical and cruel market.
posted by Thella at 12:15 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]


Many Australians of a certain age will remember the sugar glider this way...
posted by prismatic7 at 1:14 AM on September 6


Let's get rid of parrots and all of those tropical-ish birds and fish as well.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:07 AM on September 6


Let's get rid of parrots and all of those tropical-ish birds and fish as well.

Oh we are all doing a good job of that by not acting to stop climate change.

Animals are not protected by being in cages in your home. It's a selfish fool who thinks otherwise. Native animals are protected through the large scale conservation of their natural native habitat.
posted by Thella at 4:57 AM on September 6


MetaFilter: So cute and so dead.
posted by loquacious at 11:47 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


It would be the equivalent of finding a native US squirrel kept as a pet in Australia.

I mean...do you want one? You can have one if you like.
posted by ryanrs at 4:43 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]


What's the story with those sugar-glider-pet booths that have been appearing at state fairs & other events? Is that some kind of chain, pyramid scheme, or what?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:28 AM on September 9


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