Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a Gliding Mammal!

Image from
Image from
I don’t have any good quips for an introduction this week, but I’d like to let you know that this genus is much creepier in motion. Start this video at 5:31 to see it1.

The Philippine Colugo (Cynocephalus volans) is also known as the Philippine Flying Lemur. I won’t use that term again in this post for two major reasons: a) it doesn’t fly2, and b) it’s not a lemur. It is from the Philippines, so I can keep with that. They fit into the many, many gliding animals that are given the name “flying ___”3. There are only two species of Colugo, both in the genus Cynocephalus, which means “dog-headed,” which seems to be an accurate description. The Order, which is not too distantly related to the primates, is Dermoptera, which means “Skin Wing.” They’re not actually wings, but membranes that extend from the tips of their fingers to the ends of their toes.

Colugos spend their days in tree hollows. In the evenings, they dine on young leaves, which aren’t terribly nutritious (but more so than the older leaves), and run out on an individual tree fairly quickly. This is all right because, since they live in the Philippine jungles, fresh, new leaves are just a short glide (or not, they can glide for about 100 meters) away. Their hands and feet end in sharp claws for grasping onto trees, which is helpful if you never touch the ground in your life.

Young Colugos are born early and undeveloped, much like a marsupial. However, the mother lacks a pouch, so, instead, she folds up her tail and carries the young there until it can fend for itself. This means a mother can only have one, or at most, two, every few years.

Of course, a low birth rate means slow recovery from any threats that these animals face. The biggest threat, no surprise, is habitat loss. They don’t have a very large range, and the area is being developed fairly rapidly. Since they are wild herbivores, and like a good rubber tree leaf as much as anyone (probably more), plantation owners frequently regard them as pests, and deal with them accordingly. Habitat fragmentation is also causing a problem, as individual populations get cut off from one another, leading to less genetic diversity.

1If you’re interested in African Hunting Dogs, Indian Tigers, or the Amur Leopard, feel free to watch the rest of it.
2The difference between flying and gliding is simply the fact that fliers are able to increase velocity in midair, while gliders just fall really slowly.
3 Squirrels, snakes, “dragons”, squids, frogs, fish, and geckos, to name a few.


Anonymous said...

how in the hell can you find it ugly???

Rainstorm said...

Oh, it's ugly.

And the video was removed D= I wanted to watch the creepy flying.