Are Flying Squirrels And Sugar Gliders The Same?

are flying squirrels and sugar gliders the same

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders are both small mammals kept as pets. They can both fly by gliding. Some people may be uncertain about the difference between these two animals and think they are the same. Is this true? Are flying squirrels and sugar gliders similar, or is there a difference?

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders are mammals, but flying squirrels are rodents, and sugar gliders are marsupials. Sugar gliders originally come from Australia and New Guinea, whereas different species of flying squirrels can be found worldwide. Both are nocturnal and arboreal. 

For those of us who are not zoologists, the differences between sugar gliders and flying squirrels are not immediately apparent. 

What Are Flying Squirrels And Sugar Gliders?

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders are both mammals as they fulfill the criteria for mammals:

  1. They are warm-blooded
  2. Their bodies are covered in fur
  3. They give birth to their offspring 
  4. They nurse their babies using mammary glands that lactate 

Flying squirrels are rodents with prominent incisors on both the top and bottom jaw that grow continually. They must gnaw on hard surfaces to keep their teeth trimmed and functional. 

Sugar gliders are marsupials. They have a marsupial pouch where sugar glider babies attach themselves to a teat and continue to develop.   

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels are, therefore, not the same. They belong to different animal classes and have significant differences in reproduction.    

Physical Traits Of Flying Squirrels And Sugar Gliders  

Flying squirrels can vary quite a bit in size depending on the species. Sugar gliders are a similar size to northern and southern flying squirrels weighing between two to four ounces.

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders use a patagium (gliding membrane) that stretches between their wrists and ankles on each side. 

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels are not true fliers. Instead, they use the patagium to create air resistance, enabling them to glide from one position to another.  

Sugar gliders and southern and northern flying squirrels can glide one hundred fifty to sixty-five feet. Some other flying squirrels, such as the red giant, can glide even further, up to five hundred feet.

Both flying squirrels and sugar gliders are covered by fur, but sugar gliders have soft, dense fur while flying squirrels have coarser hair in their coats.  

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels are nocturnal, arboreal animals. They have large eyes which allow as much light as possible to enter the eye, improving their night vision.

Where Are Flying Squirrels And Sugar Gliders Found? 

Flying squirrels are found in many different regions of the world. However, the southern flying squirrel makes it home in the eastern United States and the northern flying squirrel in the northern states. 

Sugar gliders are native animals from Australia and New Guinea. 

The pet trade exploited sugar gliders and southern flying squirrels, and they are now found worldwide as pets.  

Socialization Of Sugar Gliders And Flying Squirrels

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders both live in family groups. The groups are more prominent in winter as the animals huddle together for warmth. 

In summer, sugar gliders and flying squirrels live in smaller groups. 

Sugar gliders and all species of flying squirrels are highly social animals with complex communication skills and abilities. The groups often consist of family members, but they do accept outsiders. 

Flying Squirrels Vs. Sugar Gliders Reproduction

Flying squirrels have a gestation period of forty days and produce one or two litters per year. 

The squirrel litter size can vary from one to six babies, with three or four being the average size. 

Male flying squirrels mate with several different females during the mating season. Reproduction occurs in the warmer months of spring and summer. 

The female flying squirrel chooses her mate after watching the males contending for her attention. They kick out at each other and move their rear ends rapidly backward and forward. Male squirrels do not help raise babies.

Flying squirrel babies are born with fully formed limbs but are hairless, blind, deaf, and helpless. Their ears open at two days, and their eyes open thirty-two days after birth. 

Sugar gliders have some interesting features in their reproduction. For example, female sugar gliders have two uteri, two ovaries, and several reproductive heats per year. 

The gestation period for sugar gliders is fifteen to seventeen days. The tiny joeys are born with unformed hind legs but well-developed forelimbs and claws. A litter consists of one, or more commonly, two joeys.

The blind, naked, half-formed joey makes its way from the birth canal to the marsupial pouch. But, first, it attaches itself to a teat, where it stays for sixty days completing the remainder of its development.  

Male sugar gliders have bifurcated penises, allowing them to fertilize the ova in each uterus. Male sugar gliders assume parental responsibilities and assist in raising the baby sugar gliders. 

Diet Of Sugar Gliders And Flying Squirrels

Sugar gliders are named after their penchant for sweet sap, nectar, and tree gum. Fruit, berries, and leaves are part of their diet. They also eat insects, lizards, other reptiles, and small or baby birds. 

Flying squirrels’ diet varies according to the species. For example, southern flying squirrels eat berries, seeds, nuts, fungi, insects, tree bark, and tree buds. 

The Northern flying squirrels eat very few insects and prefer lichen, tree buds, mushrooms, pine cones, seeds, and berries.

The larger flying squirrels are generally herbivores. 

Their sharp incisors are ideally designed to bite and gnaw on chunks of hard plant material such as bark, pine cones, nuts, acorns, and seeds. 

Conservation Status: Sugar Gliders And Flying Squirrels  

Sugar gliders and southern flying squirrels are not endangered and fall into the CITES species of least concern group.

Out of all the flying squirrels, only the northern ones are endangered. These animals were placed on the endangered list back in 1985.

Final Word

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders are not the same. Although they are both mammals, they come from different animal family groups. 

Flying squirrels are rodents, and sugar gliders are marsupials. They have many common behaviors but also some which are different. 

While both are popular pets, keeping them in some places is illegal, so make sure you do your due diligence before acquiring one.

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