Animal Info - Mahogany Glider

Petaurus gracilis (Petaurus norfolcensis gracilis)

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Birth Rate, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Mahogany Glider #1 (10 Kb JPEG) (Chakoro Nat. Res.); Mahogany Glider #2 (10 Kb JPEG) (Chakoro Nat. Res.); Mahogany Glider #3 (20 Kb JPEG) (Jackson, S.)

The mahogany glider weighs an average of about 350 g (13 oz). It occupies a mosaic of habitats dominated by medium to low woodland on swampy coastal plains and extensive beach ridges, at an altitude between sea level and 120 m (400'). It is found in areas of very high, seasonal precipitation. The mahogany glider's diet includes nectar from eucalypt blossoms and grass-trees and exudates licked from gashes cut in various plants. It also eats flowers, invertebrates, lichens and gum. The mahogany glider nests inside the hollows of dead and living trees, either singly or in pairs. One or two young are born per litter.

The mahogany glider was described as a new species in 1883 in the vicinity of Cardwell, Queensland, Australia. However, in the apparent absence of further specimens to examine, it came to be regarded as a subspecies of the more common squirrel glider, Petaurus norfolcensis and was "lost" as a species for 100 years. Based on a reexamination of old skins in 1986, it was again elevated to the status of a full species, and living animals were found in the wild in 1989. At present, the mahogany glider is known to occur in a 130 km (81 mi) long coastal strip between Bambaru and the Hull River.

Habitat loss and fragmentation due to clear cutting and drainage of woodland for aquaculture and for planting of sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, pasture, and pine are the biggest threats to the mahogany glider. In addition, it is losing habitat because the dry woodlands within its range are retreating at the expense of vineforest encroachment due to changing fire regimes.


Tidbits

*** Unfortunately, a month after members of this species were identified in the wild for the first time in over one hundred years, their habitat was cleared for banana and pineapple plantations. Another population was found two years later.

*** Gliders such as the mahogany glider resemble flying squirrels in having large gliding membranes. The gliding membrane extends all the way from the outer side of the forefoot to the ankle, uniting the front and hind limbs. It is opened by spreading the limbs straight out and used to glide from tree to tree.

*** The fur of gliders provides an important catchment for pollen which thus can be distributed within the glider’s range as the glider moves around (Dettman et al. 1995).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Mahogany Glider Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Australia (IUCN 2004).

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The mahogany glider was described as a new species in 1883. It was documented from "north of Cardwell" (Queensland) and from Mt. Echo (southwest of Cardwell). However, in the apparent absence of further specimens to examine, it came to be regarded as a subspecies of the more common squirrel glider, Petaurus norfolcensis. Based on a reexamination of old skins in 1986, it was again elevated to the status of a full species, and living animals were found in the wild in 1989. As of 1996, the mahogany glider was known to occur in a 130 km (81 mi) long narrow coastal strip between Bambaru (30 km (19 mi) south of Ingham) and the Hull River near Tully (Maxwell et al. 1996). Approximately 80 percent of its original habitat has been cleared.

Distribution Map (4 Kb GIF) (Maxwell et al. 1996)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Habitat loss and fragmentation due to clear cutting and drainage of woodland for aquaculture and for planting of sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, pasture, and pine are the biggest threats to the mahogany glider. In addition, it is losing habitat because the dry woodlands within its range are retreating at the expense of vineforest encroachment due to changing fire regimes (Dettman et al. 1995).


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The mahogany glider weighs: 250 - 400 g (9 - 15 oz) (average 340 g (12 oz)) (females); 330 - 410 g (12 - 15 oz) (average 360 g (13 oz)) (males).

Habitat:

The mahogany glider has been found in a mosaic of habitats dominated by medium to low Eucalyptus-Acacia woodland on swampy coastal plains and extensive beach ridges. It occurs at an altitude between sea level and 120 m (400'), with most found below 20 m (66'). It is confined to areas of very high, seasonal precipitation and a woodland vegetation blend that is shaped and maintained by fire.

Diet:

The mahogany glider's diet includes nectar from eucalypt blossoms and grass-trees and exudates licked from gashes cut in bloodwoods, the large-fruited red mahogany and several species of wattles. Palynological evidence, based on the high proportions of pollen represented in fecal samples, imply that it grazes on flowers. It also eats invertebrates, lichens and gum. The gum is tapped from the spears of the grass-tree by biting a chunk from just below the flower head or at the spear's base. This wound slowly exudes an amber mucilaginous jelly that is eaten the following evening. (Dettman et al. 1995, Strahan 1995)

Behavior:

The mahogany glider is arboreal and mostly nocturnalThe female and her young  will rest during the day in one of a dozen or so nests in hollows of dead or living trees distributed on a seasonal circuit.

Social Organization:

The mahogany glider nests either singly or in pairs.

Density and Range:

The mahogany glider uses a home range up to 23 hectares (57 acres) in area (Dettman et al. 1995).


References

Arkive, Chakoro Nat. Res., Dettman et al. 1995, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Jackson, S., Maxwell et al. 1996, Nowak 1999, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Stephens 1996, Strahan 1995


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Last modified: January 8, 2005;

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