Species Spotlight: Sugar Gliders

sugar glider samSugar gliders are amazing little creatures. Suggies (pronounced SHU-geez), as they are lovingly called, are small, gliding marsupials from Australia. They are sometimes called flying squirrels, but they are not typically classified in that group according to classical taxonomy. They are in the same baramin, or created kind, as flying squirrels and they have similar genetic, morphological, and behavioral characteristics. Suggies grow to be about 6 inches long, with a tail that extends another 4-5 inches. They are very soft and will cuddle if handled properly and often. Sugar gliders are very popular in the pet trade, but their care is rather controversial among breeders, owners, and veterinarians. No complete captive diet has yet been agreed upon. Akron Fossils currently has three suggies in the live animal collection. Sam, Jess, and Aloysius are quite fun to watch and play with. Sugar gliders are nocturnal, but can learn to flip their schedule somewhat so that they are awake during the day. Our sugars each have their favorite foods; Sam really likes her yogurt treats, Jess loves berries, and Aloysius gobbles down mealworms.  Sam is pictured above eating one of her favorite treats.

Sugar gliders are amazingly designed for their lifestyle. With their large, dark eyes they can see very well in the dark forests of Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, and New Guinea. Their sharp teeth and claws are perfectly designed for chopping up insects and tearing into fruit and trees for the sap, which makes up the bulk of their diet. Suggies are rarely found near the ground in the wild as they are arboreal, meaning they spend their time in the tree tops. Their back legs are specifically designed to support the body weight as the gliders hang upside down and run up and down the tree trunks and branches. They will glide between trees with their legs fanned and the patagium stretched out. The patagium is the membrane attached to the front and back legs on each side of the body.

In the cold season, when food is limited, suggies will undergo torpor, which is a type of short-term hibernation. Their body temperatures will drop and they will need to eat less. In captivity, they do not need to do this as adequate food is available. However, the gliders are susceptible to calcium deficiencies in captivity due to insufficient diets. This is why it is important that they have a proper diet and vitamins in captivity. Many times we have people ask us if sugar gliders make good pets. The answer is yes, but only if you are willing to fully care for them and provide for their every need. Come visit our sugar gliders at Akron Fossils to see these marvelous creatures up close!

Written by Megan Beaver

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About Akron Fossils & Science Center

Akron Fossils & Science Center features hands-on tours and science activities that put knowledge directly in your hands. Our exhibits display many fossils from Ohio and around the world. In addition to our guided tours, we offer a wide variety of enriching science programs, all hands-on and designed to make science and learning fun and meaningful. We also look forward to having you enjoy our 2 1/2 acre outdoor adventure park called Truassic Park. Our park features a 9-hole mini golf course, giant slide, and 200 FT ZIP- LINE! At Akron Fossils & Science Center, participants and visitors become more than observers; they become researchers, experimenters, and even educators. Our exhibits and programs let you experience science first-hand and encourage understanding and deep, critical thought. A trip to Akron Fossils & Science Center provides more than something to do for one day; it ignites a passion for learning and exploration that lasts a lifetime.

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