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Description and Physical Characteristics of Sugar Gliders

By Rosemary J. Booth, BVSc, Principal Conservation Officer, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services

A gliding membrane called the patagium allows these marsupials to glide up to 148 feet.

Sugar gliders are generally 5 to 12 inches (120 to 320 millimeters) long with a tail that is 6 to 9 inches (150 to 230 millimeters) long. Their fur is bluish-gray with a pale belly and a dark stripe that runs down the back. Sugar gliders are similar to flying squirrels and have gliding membranes that allow efficient movement. These gliding membranes are called patagiums and stretch from the wrists to the ankles. Sugar gliders can glide up to 148 feet (45 meters) using their tails to steer and balance.

Female sugar gliders have stomach pouches in which the young develop. Mature males have a scent gland on the forehead that looks like a bald spot. They have a similar scent gland on the throat and near the base of the tail, which they use to mark each other and their territory. Males weigh 4 to 6 ounces (110 to 160 grams), and the slightly smaller females weigh 3 to 5 ounces (95 to 135 grams).

Sugar gliders are nocturnal, which means that they are most active at night and sleep throughout the day. They make noises such as chirping, barking, and chattering. They feed on insects and on the sap, gum, and nectar from various trees and plants. In the wild, they live in colonies that nest in tree hollows. Sugar gliders are generally strong and healthy when proper husbandry practices are followed. On average, they live 9 to 12 years in captivity. (See table: Sugar Gliders at a Glance.)

Sugar Gliders at a Glance

Lifespan

9 to 12 years

Adult male body weight

110 to 160 grams (4 to 6 ounces)

Adult female body weight

95 to 135 grams (3 to 5 ounces)

Respiratory rate

16 to 40 breaths per minute

Heart rate

200 to 300 beats per minute

Body temperature

97.3°F (36.3°C)

Dentition (type of teeth)

Diprotodont (enlarged incisors or front teeth)

Puberty

7 to 10 months

Estrous cycle

29 days

Pregnancy duration

15 to 17 days

Litter size

2 (most common) or 1

Birth weight

0.2 gram (.007 ounce)

Pouch emergence

70 to 74 days

Weaning

110 to 120 days

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* This is the Veterinary Version. *