Mahogany glider (Petaurus gracilis)

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Male mahogany glider
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Mahogany glider fact file

Mahogany glider description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDiprotodontia
FamilyPetauridae
GenusPetaurus (1)

Mahogany gliders were first described in 1883 but for over 100 years were thought to be a subspecies of the more common, squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) (2). The glider was only ‘rediscovered’ in the wild in 1989, having been elevated to species level in 1993 following the examination of skins and skulls of old and recently discovered specimens (2). Gliders have a thin, furred membrane that stretches from the front foot to the ankle of the hind foot (3), and whilst not in use the gliding membrane can be seen as a wavy line along the body (4). Their feet are hand-like and there is an enlarged, opposable big toe on the hind foot (4). The mahogany glider has a grey to brown coloured coat with a black stripe that runs along the length of the body, and the underside is creamy white or mahogany (5). The long tail is extremely furry and used to stabilise the animal during gliding (2).

Size
Total length: 590 – 660 mm (2)
Average length: 624 mm (2)
Female weight: 310 - 450g (2)
Male weight: 337 - 500 g (2)
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Mahogany glider biology

Relatively new to science, very little is known about the natural ecology and behaviour of the mahogany glider. These nocturnal animals are arboreal and can glide between the treetops for distances of up to 60 m by stretching out their membrane (2). Individuals are mainly solitary, spending the day asleep in tree hollows and the nights foraging within their home range, which may be up to 23 hectares in size (3). Females give birth to one or two young and raise them alone (5).

These gliders feed on exudates such as the sap and gum of eucalypt and acacia trees, and also take gum from the floral spears of grass trees (4). Nectar, pollen and even insects and spiders also make up an important part of the diet (5).

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Mahogany glider range

The species has been recorded only in a narrow and highly fragmented band of medium to low woodland on coastal lowlands between the Hull River near Tully and Crystal Creek some 30 km south of Ingham, North Queensland, a north-south distance of approximately 108 km, that encloses a total area of only 720 km² (2).

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Mahogany glider habitat

Inhabits lowland eucalypt woodlands found on swampy coastal plains and beach ridges. Restricted to areas where there is a high seasonal rainfall (3).

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Mahogany glider status

Classified as Endangered (EN A1b, B1+2abc, C2a) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Mahogany glider threats

The loss and fragmentation of habitat is the main threat to the continued survival of the mahogany glider. Approximately 80% of its coastal woodland habitat has been cleared to make way for agricultural practices such as banana, sugar-cane and pineapple plantations and for cattle grazing (6). Fragments of remaining habitat may not be large enough to support viable populations and are vulnerable to wildfires and to further clearing (5).

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Mahogany glider conservation

The mahogany glider is listed on the Australian Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 (6), and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is working to protect the remaining areas of habitat (5). Nature refuges and areas of national park will be vital to maintain this species in the few forests where it is currently found (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Authentication

Information authenticated by Stephen Jackson (November 2004) of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia.

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Glossary

Arboreal
Living in trees.
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References

  1. UNEP-WCMC database (July, 2002)
    http://quin.unep-wcmc.org
  2. Jackson, S. (2004) Pers. comm.
  3. Animal Info (July, 2002)
    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/petagrac.htm
  4. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Environmental Protection Agency (July, 2002)
    http://www.env.qld.gov.au/cgi-bin/w3-msql/environment/plant/animals/resultframe.html?id=12
  6. James Cook University (July, 2002)
    http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/tbiol/zoology/auxillry/mammals/moggy.htm
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Image credit

Male mahogany glider  
Male mahogany glider

© Daryl Dickson & Geoff Moffatt

Daryl Dickson
http://www.wildcardart.com.au

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