The world's gliding mammals are an extraordinary group of animals that have the ability to glide from tree to tree with seemingly effortless grace. There are more than 60 species of gliding mammals including the flying squirrels from Asia, Europe and North America, the scaly-tailed flying squirrels from central Africa and the gliding possums of Australia and New Guinea. But the most spectacular of all are the colugos – or so called flying lemurs – that occur throughout South-East Asia and the Philippines.
Animals that glide from tree to tree descend at an angle of less than 45 degrees to the horizontal, while those that parachute descend at an angle greater than 45 degrees. Gliding is achieved by deflecting air flowing past well-developed gliding membranes, or patagia, which form an effective airfoil that allows the animal to travel the greatest possible horizontal distance with the least loss in height. The flying squirrels and scaly-tailed flying squirrels even have special cartilaginous spurs that extend either from the wrist or elbow, respectively, to help support the gliding membrane.
Gliding Mammals of the World provides, for the first time, a synthesis of all that is known about the biology of these intriguing mammals. It includes a brief description of each species, together with a distribution map and a beautiful full-colour painting. An introduction outlines the origins and biogeography of each group of gliding mammals and examines the incredible adaptations that allow them to launch themselves and glide from tree to tree.
2 Gliding adaptations and behaviour
3 Gliding marsupials
5 Flying squirrels
6 Scaly-tailed flying squirrels
Appendix: Gliding mammal localities
Stephen Jackson is a behavioural and environmental ecologist who has studied Australian mammals in the wild and in captivity over the last 20 years. He has worked in a number of different roles including field ecologist, zookeeper, curator, government regulator, part-time lecturer and wildlife consultant. He has published numerous scientific articles and four books as a result of his research, with several other books nearing completion. One of his books, Australian Mammals: Biology and Captive Management, was awarded the prestigious Whitley Medal for the best natural history book from the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.
Peter Schouten is an acclaimed wildlife artist who has a passion for all things feathered, furred and scaled – from both present and past. He delights in painting creatures that either cannot be or have not been photographed, due to extinction or rarity. He aims to draw attention to the unfortunate plight of many of these creatures and to emphasise the need for urgent conservation. He recently completed work on Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds – a collection of images which challenges all of our preconceived notions of those truly colossal animals of the past – the dinosaurs. His spectacular paintings are keenly collected and have been widely exhibited at major galleries and museums around the world.