An arboreal species, the sugar glider uses the membrane along its body to glide up to 50 metres or more between trees (2) (3) (5) (6). It is quite agile in the air, using the tail to help control the direction of the glide, and swooping upwards at the last moment to land with precision, using large claws to help it cling on (5) (6). Foraging usually takes place at night, the diet consisting mainly of gum and sap, obtained by chiselling into trees with the large incisor teeth (2) (4) (5) (6). Good sap-feeding sites may be vigorously defended (6). A range of other items are also eaten, including blossoms, nectar, pollen, insects, spiders, and even small birds and mammals (2) (3) (5) (6).
The sugar glider shelters by day in a hollow, lined with leaves, which are transported to the nest held coiled in the tail (3) (5). Groups of up to seven or more adults and young may share the nest, huddling together to keep warm, and even entering short periods of torpor during cold weather (2) (3) (4) (6). Led by a dominant male, the group uses a complex system of scent-marking to recognise other group members and to mark the territory, which is aggressively defended against intruders (2) (3) (4) (5).
Breeding may occur throughout the year in the north, but peaks between June and November in the south, usually occurring when insects, an important source of protein, are abundant. The female sugar glider gives birth to one or two young after a gestation period of around 16 days, and, like most other marsupials, the young develop within a pouch, where they attach to a nipple for about 40 days. The young first emerge from the pouch after around 60 to 70 days, and leave the nest at around 111 days, often riding on the female’s back as she forages. The young become independent at 7 to 10 months, and the female sugar glider may then go on to produce a second litter (2) (3) (4) (5). Sexual maturity is reached at 8 to 15 months in females and 12 months in males (2). Although young female sugar gliders may remain with the group, young males are usually forced to disperse. Lifespan is around 4 to 6 years in the wild, or up to 14 years in captivity (2) (3) (4).