Animals / Mammal Facts / Rodents - Most Populous Group of Mammals / Squirrels - Big Family of Alert, Short-Faced Rodents / Flying Squirrel - Sailing Fluffy Rodent
Flying Squirrel - Sailing Fluffy Rodent
One of the most unique evolutionary traits ever developed by a mammal is the gliding capabilities of the flying squirrel. One of the most famous rodents the world over, this squirrel isn't capable of true flight the way its name suggests - the only mammal capable of true flight in the world is the bat, but it is capable of something almost as amazing. Every flying squirrel has a fleshy stretch of skin all covered in fur called a "patagium" - it extends out between their flexible joints, and when outstretched can be used to control direction and speed while in mid-air by adjusting how taut or loose the patagium is held by the squirrel. It’s like adjusting the sails on a sailboat.
Flying squirrels can create mid-flight lift and can glide up to 300 feet in the air (92m). Their large, fluffy tail is used as a counterweight for balance in mid air, and can be used to slow their descent before landing on a tree branch or on the forest floor. Belonging to the family/subfamily Sciurinae, flying squirrels are not a species, but rather a tribe full of many different species who live all over the world for example the Afghan, Sumatran, Indochinese, Siberian and Palawan species. Some species are named after their features like the red-cheeked, whiskered, groove-toothed, hairy-footed, woolly, red and white giant, spotted giant, Japanese dwarf and some pygmies.
Fact: though most flying squirrels live between 5 and 6 years in the wild, captive species have lived for over fifteen years. Though their sizes are variable, most species grow between 10 and 15 inches (25-37 cm) in length and weigh between 4 and 8 ounces (110-230 g). Many of these nocturnal animals are luckily considered not threatened by the IUCN. The common species to North America - the Southern and Northern Flying Squirrel are considered "Least Concern" - so there are many amazing gliding squirrels to see out there in the wild. That is, if you are willing to go out into the forests at night and keep your eyes fixed up high in the canopy.