Flying animals: discover the different species that can take to the sky – BBC Discover Wildlife


From squirrels to frogs, there are many animals that can take to the air to one degree or another.
Did you know that as well as birds, bats and insects, the world is full of other flying animals? Here are just a few.
In Japan, there are three types flying squirrel species – the ezo flying squirrel, Japanese dwarf squirrel (Pteromys momonga) and giant flying squirrel (Petaurista leucogenys). Several dozen more flying squirrel species are distributed throughout Asia, North America and Europe.
The world’s smallest gliding mammal is a marsupial, the feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus) found along the eastern seaboard of Australia and over to South Australia. It measures up to 8cm in length, tipping the scales at 12g.
Also found in Australia are the southern greater glider (Petauroides volans), a large marsupial that can be up to 60cm in length and weigh 1.7kg, and sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps), which are possums with a penchant for nectar and sap.
Other gliding mammals include the colugo, aka the Philippine flying lemur (Cynocephalus volans), and the Sunda flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus), whose native range is from southern Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore to Indonesia. Though both animals are called flying lemurs, neither is in fact a lemur. The name possibly derives from a passing facial resemblance to lemurs, which are found only in Madagascar.
An ability to take to the air isn’t limited to warm-blooded animals though. There are hundreds of species of flying frog, for instance. One well-known example is Wallace’s flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus), found in trees in Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia, as well as on Sumatra and Borneo. These amphibians glide using membranes between their limbs. There are also flying geckos, lizards and snakes, and tropical spiders and ants in at least five genera are known to glide.
Even some marine animals can take to the air, presumably to flee predators. These include dozens of species of flying fishes, halfbeaks and even flying squids.
Main image: Southern Flying Squirrel © Joe McDonald/Getty Images
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