Yellow Bellied Glider, Petaurus australis

The yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australis) is a species of gliding possum that can be found in eastern areas of Australia. Its range extends from Victoria to northern Queensland. It prefers a habitat within eucalypt forests, at elevations of up to 2,296 feet above sea level. This species holds two recognized subspecies, one of which is locally common and one that is rare to encounter.

The yellow-bellied glider can reach an average body length of 11.8 inches, with an average tail length of 18.8 inches and a weight of about 1.5 pounds. Males are typically larger than females. The fur of this species is greyish brown on the back and can vary from off white to yellowish orange on the underbelly, from which it derives its common name. This species is the largest within its genus, Petaurus.

Like other wrist-winged gliders in the Petaurus genus, the yellow-bellied glider can jump from branch to branch by gliding. This species has been known to jump and glide between 328 and 374 feet. It is nocturnal and social in nature, spending the daytime hours in tree hollows with other members of its species. This species communicates using loud calls that can be heard up to 1,640 feet away. Its diet consists of plant materials like honeydew, nectar, pollen, and a large variety of tree saps, but it will also consume insects.

The breeding season for the yellow-bellied glider occurs in the spring months in the southern area of its range and year round in the northern area of its range. Both males and females reach sexual maturity around two years of age, after which they will form monogamous pairs. These pairs typically breed through the months of August to December. This species is a marsupial, so young are born in their mother’s pouch, where they remain until about one hundred days of age. After emerging from the pouch, the young will stay hidden within the den for two to three months before they are weaned. Both the mother and father gliders care for their young while they remain in the den.

The main threats to the yellow-bellied glider are logging and barbed wire fences, although these threats have not proven to be majorly harmful to population numbers. Currently, thirteen populations are fragmented into three larger groups across northern Queensland. These reside on Mount Carbine Tableland, Mount Windsor Tableland, and one from Kirrama on the Atherton Tableland to Atherton.  These groups contain about 6,000 individuals together, but its natural habitat is being destroyed by logging, so these numbers could decrease in the future. In the tropics, this species is thought of as vulnerable. However, because its threats do not seem immediate and because it occurs in large numbers across its range, experts do not think low numbers cause its rarity. The yellow-bellied glider appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

Image Caption: Petaurus australis. Credit: John Gould/Wikipedia