Sugar gliders (SG), compared to other mammalian pets, are actually quite small at adulthood. An adult specimen will probably measure a maximum of seven inches from the tip of the snout to the tip of its tail.
The average length of an adult sugar glider in captivity is only about five inches, give or take a few centimeters.
When your SG reaches the six-inch mark, you already have an adult sugar glider that is ready to reproduce.
Though some variations exist, the common sugar bear has gray fur all over the top of its body. The underside of the honey bear also has fur, but the fur in this region of the marsupial’s body is usually white or cream-colored. The cream-colored underside can easily be seen from afar because of the sharp contrast between the fur on the animal’s neck and the fur on its head.
The sugar glider is a striped marsupial with characteristically thick stripes running from its facial region all the way to its back. The tail of the suggie is a combination of black and silver. The tip is usually covered with black fur. Now let us turn our attention to the SG’s tail. Apart from being soft and cute, the sugar bear’s tail is important for the animal’s movement.
Some people think the glider uses its bushy tail to grab hold of stems and prey. Nope! The suggie’s tail is actually more of a balancing and steering tool. When a honey bear glides, the tail is used to balance the weight and air movement, which then allows the animal to land safely on the other side. The glider-bear can also change its trajectory during the glide by shifting the direction of its tail.
The Glider’s Face
A sugar glider’s face is short, with most of the area being occupied by large eyes. The placement and size of the eyes are quite important for honey gliders in the wild because this ocular presentation allows the animal to scan its surroundings more effectively.
Think of the SG’s eyes as a wide-angle lens. It cannot see very far, but it can view the entire landscape more effectively than other mammals. In one quick scan of its surroundings, a sugar bear can ascertain if danger or food is nearby.
The honey bear’s face is covered with striped fur, except for its ears. The ears are short, soft, and move independently. This capability of the glider bear to move its ears in different directions at the same time allows this tiny marsupial to pick up sounds from its surroundings more efficiently.
Combine this keen sense of hearing with a wide viewing field, and you’ll begin to understand how this small creature has withstood the challenges of natural selection and has emerged as one of the victors of mammalian evolution.
Though small, the sugar glider has been blessed by nature with a peculiar set of tools and senses that allow it outsmart and escape larger predators easily.
The Limbs and Feet
Like humans, sugar bears have a total of twenty digits on their limbs. A glider has a total of ten digits on its forefeet. Each digit is jointed, flexible, and has a sharp sword-like claw. The same applies to its hind feet.
Their long claws allow sugar gliders to grip their landing spots with ease after a short glide. Through gripping, the suggie is able to move from one tree to another with relative ease and without injury. Gripping lessens the impact upon landing and also helps evenly distribute the impact of the landing throughout the glider-bear’s body.
The honey bear’s hind feet are used not only for movement, but also for grooming — a vitally important activity for marsupials. The third and fourth digits on the hind feet of the SG are physically locked together. This fusion creates a handy comb that the glider uses for a variety of daily grooming tasks including (but not limited to) the removal of parasites.
The Gliding Membrane
The gliding membrane is the one thing that truly separates the tiny marsupial from its larger possum cousins. Though this creature may be lacking in height and length, it does not lack in mobility or agility. Let’s take a look at the glider bear’s gliding membrane.
Unlike a bat’s wings, the gliding membrane does not have the ligaments and bones of a skeletal framework. The gliding membrane is simply thick flexible skin that can be spread out extensively during a glide.
When an adult suggie jumps off a high point to glide downward, it stretches its forefeet and hind feet to activate the gliding membrane. Combine this movement with the glider’s tail movements, and you have a perfect little gliding marsupial ready to transport it from tree to tree.
Many people believe that a sugar glider is merely a miniature version of a flying squirrel. Although at first sight these two animals may look alike, biologically they are very different. For one, marsupials in general have retained some vestiges of their reptilian evolutionary past. These vestigial reptilian characteristics affect the honey bear’s general behavior, capacity for environmental adaptation, physical characteristics, etc.
Are you worried that this marsupial might not live long enough to be fully appreciated by your kids? Don’t be. A well cared for glider-bear can live for as long as twelve years in captivity!