Although known as flying squirrel, flying squirrels cannot actually fly, but rather is quite good at gliding from one top to another with the help of its patagium. They are similar to most squirrels but have some adaptations that make them stand apart in the squirrel species. Read on to know more facts about the flying squirrel.
Scientific name: Pteromyini
Size: 20 cm – 30 cm
Weight: 250 grams – 300 grams
Lifespan: 6 years
How do flying squirrels glide?
Flying squirrels cannot actually fly like birds or bats.
These unique squirrels have flaps of skin on their either side connected with arms and legs. When the leap into the air, they spread out their arms and legs which creates the same effect as a “paraglide”.
They glide between trees and can glide up to 90 meters.
How flying squirrels are different from other squirrels?
It was found that the flying squirrels originated 18-20 million years ago, and are related to the other squirrel species. By comparing northern and southern tree squirrels, the studies revealed that the flying squirrels had lengthened bones such as those of the lumbar vertebrae and the forearm, while the feet, hands, and Distal vertebrae are reduced in relative length to tree squirrels.
The evolution of gliding squirrels could be explained through several theories. One of these could be achieving energy efficiency. Another theory predicts that the flying mechanism could have been developed to achieve faster speeds in order to avoid predators.
Flying Squirrel Habitat
Flying squirrels are well adjusted to woodlands, deciduous and coniferous forests
Gliding squirrels are found in North America and, Central America and Europe.
Of these Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are native to North America, while the Siberian flying squirrel is native to Europe.
Some species of squirrels can also be found in Northeast, East and Southeast Asian countries like Japan, Malaysia, China, Thailand, India,
Flying squirrels hunt at night. They feed on fruits, nuts, mushrooms, and eggs of birds. They have an excellent sense of smell that aids them while searching for food.
The lifespan of flying squirrels in the wild is about six years, but flying squirrels can live up to fifteen years in captivity. Young squirrels can fall prey to snakes, raccoons, owls, coyotes, and cats.
Flying Squirrels as pets
Flying squirrels make adorable pets. They can be kept in a cage, but they require special care. They should be entertained with toys. A flying squirrel should not be allowed to move freely around the house because they are overactive and may hurt themselves.
Quick Facts about the flying squirrel
- Flying squirrels are nocturnal.
- They are omnivores.
- They cannot really fly, but glide with the help of skin flaps.
- They have a highly developed sense of smell which they use to hunt.
- Flying squirrels are quite affectionate and can be petted, but require special care.