Introduction to ecosystems
Introduction to ecosystems

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4.2 Flying squirrels

Flying squirrels are not closely related to the colugos but they have features in common. You have seen squirrels and read about the colugo. As you watch the video, think about how flying squirrels steer during their glides. Note the advantages of the gliding habit.

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Described image
Figure 7 Flying squirrel

Activity 2

Consider these questions and note your answers in the box below.

  • Identify one similarity and one difference between flying squirrels and colugos.
  • On the evidence of the video sequence, comment on how flying squirrels steer during gliding.
  • What are the disadvantages and consequences of the gliding habit in flying squirrels?
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Answer

Both colugos and flying squirrels have a flap of skin stretched between their limbs on each side of the body – the patagium. However, in contrast to the squirrels, colugos are not as adept at moving through the trees as the patagium is much larger and an encumbrance except in flight.

During gliding squirrels steer partly with their tail and partly be altering the tension of the patagium, which alters its aerodynamic properties.

The ability to glide enables colugos and squirrels to travel long distances between trees at a low energetic cost. However, they are very vulnerable to predators and so generally only come out at night.

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