FEATHER-TAILED POSSUMS – Acrobatidae

feather tailed possum

FEATHER-TAILED POSSUM PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The family Acrobatidae is made up of two species: the pygmy glider and the feather-tailed possum. Although they are very different in many ways, these two species have similarities that make them part of the same family.

The pygmy glider is the smaller of the two species. Their heads and bodies are usually between 2.5 and 3 inches (6.5 to 8 centimeters). They have tails that are also between 2.5 and 3 inches (6.5 to 8 centimeters) in length. The pygmy glider weighs less than 0.5 ounces (14 grams). Feather-tailed possums are larger, with a head and body length that ranges from 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 centimeters). Their tail is longer than their body, with a length of between 5 and 6 inches (12 to 15 centimeters). They weigh between 1 and 2 ounces (30 to 60 grams).

Pygmy gliders and feather-tailed possums both have tails that are long and have long straight hairs sticking off both sides of their tail. These hairs make the tail look like a feather, which is how they got their name. Both species have large eyes and round ears. They both also have gray fur. The feather-tailed possum has black and white stripes on its face. The pygmy glider does not have these stripes and has a white belly.

Both species of this family have sharp claws that help them grip trees. They also have six pads on their feet to help them grip. The pygmy glider has a thin membrane, or piece of skin, that goes from its front legs to its back legs. This membrane allows it to glide. The feather-tailed possum does not glide and does not have this membrane.

Both species are marsupial mammals. This makes them different from most familiar mammals such as cats, dogs, and horses.These familiar mammals are all eutherian (yoo-THEER-ee-an) mammals, which means they have a well-developed placenta. A placenta is an organ that grows in the mother’s uterus, womb, and lets the mother and developing baby share food and oxygen. Marsupial mammals do not have this type of placenta. Because of this, they give birth to young that are not physically developed enough to be able to survive on their own. Instead, the young are carried around either in a pouch or attached to the mother’s teats, or nipples, on her underside until they have developed more fully and can survive on their own.

FEATHER-TAILED POSSUM GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

The pygmy glider lives in eastern Australia. The feather-tailed possum lives in New Guinea.

FEATHER-TAILED POSSUM HABITAT

Both species in this family live in trees. Feather-tailed possums live in tropical rainforests and woodland areas. They are also sometimes found in suburban gardens. Pygmy gliders prefer forests that contain many eucalyptus (yoo-kah-LIP-tus) trees. They also live in other woodland areas.

FEATHER-TAILED POSSUM DIET

Pygmy gliders and feather-tailed possums eat insects, fruit, flowers, and nectar.

FEATHER-TAILED POSSUM BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Both the pygmy glider and the feather-tailed possum are nocturnal, which means they are active mainly at night. They have flexible prehensile tails that allow them to grab hold of branches. Feather-tailed possums usually live alone or in pairs, but pygmy gliders often live in groups and make nests out of dry leaves in branches or hollows in trees.

Feather-tailed possums have one or two offspring at a time, while pygmy gliders usually have three or four offspring. They both give birth to young that are underdeveloped and spend time in the pouch while they grow and mature. After they leave the pouch, the young spend time in the nest before being weaned, no longer dependent on their mother’s milk, and are ready to fend for themselves.

FEATHER-TAILED POSSUMS AND PEOPLE

Feather-tailed possums do not have any known significance to humans except to the scientists who study them.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Neither species of feather-tailed possum is considered threatened. They do not face a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.