Two New Flying Marsupial Species Discovered in Australia and Its 'Biodiversity Got a Lot Richer'
The one known species of the great glider in Australia has been joined by two more, making the family of these flying marsupials a trio. The great glider is an East Australian nocturnal marsupial.
It is about the size of a possum and lives in tree hollows during the day. During the nights, they can soar up to 100 metres into the air as they hop from tree branches, hunting for eucalyptus leaves.
According to a genetics study published in Scientific Reports journal, three distinct species were found in northern, southern, and central ranges. Previously, only one species was assumed to exist. "Australia's biodiversity just got a lot richer," said Andrew Krockenberger, one of the study authors from James Cook University. He noted how unusual it was to even confirm a new mammal, let alone confirm two in one day.
He noted that as one goes North, the flying mammals reduce in size. The largest individuals belong to southern species who mostly inhabits eastern eucalypt forests of Victoria and NSW. While it’s furry and fluffed up on the exterior, it is actually very light and skinny which is suitable weight for flying.
Kara Youngentob, co-author from Australian National University, noted that very little is known about the new species. The northern species was found in eucalypt forests between Mackay and Cairns in Queensland. The central gliders inhabit southern Queensland and up to Mackay.
While the size difference was noted earlier, it was attributed to geographical distribution of the same species. Now they have DNA proof to suggest the size difference is because of species difference. The gliders were once abundant in these forests but now, due to climate change, deforestation for logging, loss of habitat have pushed these animals to the ‘at-risk’ category. They are now extinct around lower Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay coast, while the Southern population has seen a sharp decline of 80%.
But the new discovery only makes the need to conserve these animals more urgent. They aren’t one species distributed across these locations, but each is a different species, making their individual populations much smaller.