Behavior

Social organization markedly differs between the subfamilies. Dactylopsilinae are solitary (though no detailed field study has yet been conducted). There are some observations of vicious fighting between males over an estrous female, and the strong odor, as well as the loud, raucous calling during copulation, suggests a possible territoriality. Petaurinae all live in family groups of different sizes, with several adults of both sexes often sharing one nest. The larger species, particularly Petaurus australis, are described as monogamous or polygy-nous, and the smaller ones as polygynous. Hierarchies were found in P. breviceps, both for males and females. Subordinate females are harassed by the dominant one, and often lose their young during the first weeks after birth. Males often form co-dominance relationships with a brother or son, both being re-productively active. Dominant males perform paternal care such as baby-sitting, huddling, and grooming the young while the female is out of the nest. Home-range sizes vary between 1.2 acres (0.5 ha) (some P. breviceps) and 210 acres (85 ha) (P. australis). In P. australis there seems to be exclusive use and active defense, thus justifying the term territory. All species of Petaurus regularly use vocalization; P. australis utters loud,

The Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) is found only in a remote region in Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Rod Williams. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
The striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata) emits a strong odor from its glands. (Photo by © Roland Seitre/Peter Arnold, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

long-ranging calls that most likely serve as territorial advertising. All species use a variety of odors that seem to serve as nest and group odors, which emit from pedal, gular, frontal, sternal, and other glands. Feeding sites of Petaurus groups are defended against intruders. In P. breviceps, there is evidence for male philopatry and female (forced) dispersal. Not much is known about social dynamics in other species. Leadbeater's possum also lives in family groups, and seems to be territorial, which might be related to its feeding behavior.

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