Greater glider in a patch of old growth forest © Josh Bowell

Greater glider in a patch of old growth forest © Josh Bowell

The Greatest Glider of All

13 Jun 2022

Keywords
  • forests
  • threatened species
  • Regenerate Australia

By Dr Kita Ashman, Threatened Species and Climate Adaptation Ecologist at WWF-Australia.

 

The greater glider is just one of our many unique native species at risk of being lost forever.

Help stop this extinction crisis with a tax-deductible donation by June 30.

 

DONATE NOW

 

Greater gliders are the cutest, most incredible animal you’ve probably never heard of.

If like me, you’re a millennial who grew up watching movies like ‘Gremlins’, these critters have solid Gizmo vibes, but thankfully they don’t have the ability to turn into highly destructive reptilians. If this reference doesn’t resonate, imagine a cat-sized cross between a possum and a koala that can also basically fly.

 


Using furry membranes that run elbows to ankles, these incredible animals can silently glide distances of up to 100 metres through the forest canopy. They’re also equipped with a super-long furry tail that they can use as a rudder to manoeuvre while gliding.

While they might be all silent grace up in the canopy, their little legs and flappy gliding membranes make moving along the ground quite the struggle when they land on the forest floor. Their awkward gait has led to this species being nicknamed ‘the clumsy possum’.

Greater gliders come in a range of colours from nearly all white to jet black and combinations, including grey and white and black and white. And let’s not forget their luxurious fur; these fluffy critters have incredibly dense pelts. In fact, they’re quite adept at making their own protective coats by wrapping their gliding membranes around themselves and getting snug as a bug.

Putting their cute looks and acrobatic abilities aside, greater gliders are an important forest indicator species. They’re usually spotted in tall, old-growth forests and are typically associated with areas that have remained relatively unscathed by disturbances, including fires and logging. Scientists have found that these critters are often one of the first to disappear from areas that have been disturbed, which means it’s possible to use this incredible animal as an indicator to gauge how the ecosystem is going for other forest-dependent animals.

Greater gliders were once common throughout the forests of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, but landclearing, logging, and climate change-induced events are threatening their survival. Gliders need mature, healthy forests and are at risk of extinction if we can’t protect and save their forest homes, as well as their other forest friends.

 

Greater glider © Josh Bowell

 

Name(s): Greater glider
Group: Possums
Status: Vulnerable to Extinction under national environment law
Size: Greater gliders are the largest marsupial glider in the world with a body length of 350-450mm and a long furry tail measuring 450-600mm. Unlike my plump housecat, these cat-sized animals look a whole lot bigger than they actually are, weighing in at around 1-2kg (gotta keep it light for flight!).
Diet: They’re what’s called folivores, leaf eaters. In this case, feeding almost entirely on eucalyptus leaves.
Habitat/range: Greater gliders are found in forests along the eastern coast from northern Queensland to central Victoria. However, scientists have recently found genetic evidence that what we’ve been calling ‘greater glider’ (Petauroides volans) is actually at least three distinct species (Petauroides volans, P. minor and P. armillatus), each with distributions that are considerably smaller than the range of the previously recognised single species.
Superpower/fun fact: These critters could probably run a pretty successful ‘Airbnb’ business, with many individuals using close to a dozen tree hollows and some maintaining as many as 20 dens! With climate change, logging, and landclearing threatening their tiny homes, these little ‘superhosts’ need our help and attention now more than ever.

Want to help keep greater gliders safe? Here’s how you can make a difference:

Add your voice to demand urgent action to protect and restore nature.
Make a tax-deductible donation to support the survival of wildlife facing the growing threat of extinction.
Learn more about the team of women helping to give greater gliders a fighting chance of survival.

 

The greater glider is just one of our many unique native species at risk of being lost forever.

Help stop this extinction crisis with a tax-deductible donation by June 30.

 

DONATE NOW

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