Colugo is a funny gliding mammal

Name : Colugo or GaleopithecusCynocephali)
Location : Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia and the Philippines.
Special sign: It has a “parachute” made of leather, which allows it to float in the air.

If heaven is the realm of birds, then it is not really the realm of mammals. With the exception of bats, these animals do not have wings or any other attribute that allows them to effectively fly through the air. But some found an unusual parade. Unable to fly, they decided to hover.

This is the case with some marsupials, some squirrels, as well as lesser known creatures, the colugo. Also known as galeopithecus, these tree-dwelling mammals have a small head, large eyes, a flattened muzzle, and small, rounded ears. An aspect that makes them look like lemurs.

It is for this that they received the nickname “flying lemurs” (flying lemurs in English). But colugos do not belong to the same group as these Malagasy primates. They don’t live in the same place either. Two species are listed today, cynocephalic volans and Galeopterus variegatus, and both live in Southeast Asia.

The former is found only in the Philippines, while the latter is found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. Their fur is not exactly the same color. However, they share the same feature: a skin growth that connects their neck, front and hind legs, and tail.

The colugo has a skin extension that connects its neck, four legs, and tail. © Walter Quirtmeier/Getty Images

Very effective “parachute”

An attribute called “patagium” may seem strange when you see an animal sitting on a trunk. But it really reveals itself when it soars among the trees. This type of parachute allows the Asian mammal to glide long distances through the canopy.

With a length of 30-40 centimeters and a mass of one to two kilograms, colugo is lightweight. Which makes it logically easier to maneuver when it comes to hovering like a flying carpet. However, his planning technique seems pretty damn effective. Even more efficient than other gliding mammals.

In a study published in 2011, researchers examined the abilities of a dozen wild Malaysian colugos. After recording almost 260 flights, they found that one of them covered a distance of 145 meters, or almost three times the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

According to another study by the same group, this is more than the maximum distance observed in other soaring species. large flying squirrel (Glaucomis sabrinus), the North American flying squirrel, for example, reaches a maximum of 93 meters, while the sugar glider (Petaurus shorthair) does not exceed 42 meters.

It must also be said that the colugo is well equipped. Its patagium, elongated towards the tail, is more extensive than that of other species. This allows him to both slow down the descent and slide further. The more or less robust muscles present in the growth would also help control flight.

Mammals are so gifted that females do not hesitate to take their young with them as they soar through the air in search of food. Because getting high is a very practical strategy when it comes to picking leaves and buds from tree to tree, which are so loved by nocturnal vegetarians.

In a paper published in 2011, scientists analyzed the energy costs associated with planning. They concluded that tree climbing and gliding required more energy than horizontal running. This strategy is no less tedious, but would actually save the animals time.

Shy, misunderstood and… threatening?

In addition to its nocturnal habits, this tendency to spend most of its time in the canopy makes the kolugo a shy species, rarely seen and therefore quite misunderstood. Many questions remain about his behavior and lifestyle. So much so that the two species listed today can form much more.

There are also questions about threats to the soaring mammal. Both types K.volans and G. motley listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as of Least Concern. But they live in regions heavily affected by deforestation and the destruction of natural ecosystems.

According to a report published in 2018, Southeast Asia lost 293,000 square kilometers of forest between 2000 and 2014, or 11.3% of its total forest cover in the early 20th century. Therefore, it is possible that colugo populations, like other South Asian species, are weakening due to the disappearance of their habitat.

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