Behavior

Feather-tailed possums are nocturnal, shy, and elusive. They live in tall trees, often in remote forests, and Acrobates has the ability to swoop from one tree to another. All this makes close observation extremely difficult; many details of their everyday lives remain unknown. Even pygmy gliders kept in captivity have proved tricky subjects for study—gliders kept in sparse enclosures or in pairs rather than groups do not survive well or breed. Acrobates is highly social. In the wild, groups of up to 20 or more animals of both sexes and various ages may build and share a series of nests within a joint home range. Aggression is apparently rare, and animals of all ages rest huddled close together, especially during periods of cold weather or food shortage when they enter a deep torpid sleep. In contrast, Distoechurus spends more time alone or in pairs. Being relatively large, it is less dependent on shared body heat to conserve energy.

Both species of acrobatid possum are superb climbers, but only Acrobates has retained the ability to glide. A glide is an extended leap, during which the animal splays its four limbs to open a narrow web of furry skin called the "patagium." This serves as a parachute, slowing the rate of descent and giving the possum some control over its trajectory and allowing it to travel 65 ft (20 m) or more through the air. Just before landing, the possum swings its hind feet forward, thus reducing airspeed, and bracing all four legs for landing on a vertical surface such as a tree trunk. The featherlike tail is used as a rudder and a brake to help control the short "flight."

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment