Sugar Glider Anatomy 101
SUGAR GLIDER ANATOMY: 101
The following is a basic breakdown of everything you need to know about Sugar Glider Anatomy
The eyes of a Sugar Glider are large and protrude from each side of the head. This gives them an extremely large field of vision.
As nocturnal animals by nature, they have excellent night vision. Although their eyes look black in color, they are actually a dark brown.
Due to the number of rods and cones in their eyes, it is believed that Sugar Gliders see in only shades of gray – and the color red. They can excrete a white-milky substance from their tear ducts to help them with grooming.
The ears of a Sugar Glider are velvety-soft and relatively large compared to the rest of its head.
Each ear (pinna) can move independently – like a “radar dish” – allowing the animal to quickly identify the source of even the slightest sound.
When bonded properly, Sugar Gliders will recognize their owner’s voices and exhibit similar intelligence to many cats & dogs.
The standard color is platinum gray with a black stripe running along the length of its body. Generally speaking, the female’s dorsal stripe is usually thinner than the male’s. The underside of both genders is typically a light-cream color.
Over the years, several rare and beautiful color variations have been domestically bred; ranging in price from a few hundred - to several thousand dollars. When considering the purchase of an “exotic color”, be extremely careful to only work with a USDA licensed breeder who can provide a written certificate of health and lineage.
One of the most interesting things about Sugar Gliders in general is that they don’t have “feet”. Instead they have 4 little hands, which are much like ours.
Each hand has 4 fingers and an opposable thumb – just like humans. This makes it easy to grasp and hold onto things. Each finger has a sharp claw which allows it to “cling – almost like Velcro – wherever it lands.
The lower hands are especially interesting, in that the 2nd and 3rd fingers are partially fused together (Syndactylous). This acts like a “comb” when grooming themselves. In addition, each lower hand has a large, padded “thumb”, (known as the hallux), which is used for gripping and holding onto branches.
Sugar Gliders have a highly developed sense of smell. This is used to help them find food, sense predators, and also recognize other members of their “family”.
As babies (Joeys), they primarily use smell to identify and “bond” with their family.
Sugar Gliders are “diprodonts” – meaning that they have two upper front teeth – and two much longer lower incisors that point forward. In the wild, they use their teeth to “scoop out” fruit and pry open tree bark to access sap and insects.
Unlike rodents, a Sugar Glider’s teeth do NOT constantly grow. Since they don’t instinctively need to chew on things, they aren’t “destructive” by nature. A Sugar Glider’s teeth should never be “ground-down” or “clipped”.
Sugar Gliders have a long tongue. In addition to being used regularly for cleaning and grooming, it’s primary purpose is to lick things like juice, water and other sweet things. Sugar gliders often “suck” the liquids out of their fruits & veggies; spitting out the remainder in small half-moon shaped chunks.
Sugar Gliders have a “semi-prehensile” tail – meaning that they can carry lightweight objects with it (like twigs, leaves, etc..), but they cannot hang from it like a monkey.
The tail is approximately half their body length – usually about 6 inches fully-grown - and is used primarily as a steering mechanism (ie. rudder) to guide them while gliding through the air. Never hold a sugar glider by its tail
Similar to a flying squirrel, Sugar Gliders have a thin flap of furry skin that stretches from their wrists to their ankles – called a Patagium. They also have tiny webbing between their fingers.
In flight, this skin spreads out into a rectangular shape – basically transforming them into a tiny “kite”. When not gliding, this extra skin “retracts” up against their body, and looks like a rippled dark line along its sides.
Sugar Gliders are extremely intelligent “aviators”, in that they can accurately triangulate distances and glide-ratios by “bobbing” their head from side-to-side just before launching. Once in the air, they “steer” themselves to their target by tilting their hands & arms, adjusting tension in their “wings”, and using their tail as a rudder.
Male Sugar Gliders have several distinctive features as they begin to mature. The first is a large testicle sac (sometimes referred to as the “pom-pom”). The testicles are attached to the main body by a single “chord” which contains no nerve endings. This makes the neutering process very simple and virtually painless to the animal.
When an un-neutered male begins to reach sexual maturity (approx. 6-8 months), it will develop two noticeable scent glands. The first is a diamond-shaped a “bald spot” on its forehead - and the second is a similar, smaller spot in the center of their chest. The reason these areas appear to be “bald” is that the oils secreted by these glands mats down their fur and often has a “crusty” appearance.
Unlike other mammals which have separate rear “openings” for pooping, peeing, and reproducing - Sugar Gliders use the same area at the base of their tail for all three. Males will sometimes experience an extended penis, which looks similar to a pink “worm” extending from their rectum. If you experience this, don’t worry, it will retract on its own after a few days. Males also have a “birfurcated” penis, meaning that the end has two distinct “branches”.
Female Sugar Gliders have a pouch where they carry their young – similar to a Kangaroo.
It is located in roughly the same area where you would expect to see a “belly button” on other mammals. .
Female Sugar Gliders will “cycle” twice a year, and there are normally no outward signs of it. When babies are born (usually one or two at a time), they are about the size of a grain of rice. Upon being born, they crawl into the pouch and “attach” themselves one of their mother’s 4 nipples for approximately 8 weeks.
When baby Sugar Gliders (Joeys) are born, they are about the size of a grain of rice. Upon giving birth, the baby will crawl into the pouch and attach itself to one of the mother’s 4 nipples.
Joeys are usually born in “litters” consisting of 1 or 2 babies. They will remain in the pouch and attached to the nipple for about 8-10 weeks.
Once the Joeys begin exploring outside the pouch, it will usually be another 6-8 weeks before they are fully-weaned and ready to leave their parents.
NOTE: Baby Gliders are much like human children in that it’s impossible to judge their age by their weight. With human infants, newborns can range from a couple pounds –to 12lbs or more. Joeys are the same way – and can often weigh 3-4 times as much as other babies their same age.
The following is a week-by-week “photo album” of “Tinkerbell”, a baby Sugar Glider as she grows up and prepares to go out on her own!..
Size: 8-18 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: No fur, eyes closed.
Size: 12-22 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: No fur, eyes closed.
Size: 17-29 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: Eyes open, fine fur beginning.
Size: 18-35 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: Fur becoming more prominent. Tail starting to fluff out.
Size: 19-39 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: Complete fur coverage. Tail continuing to fluff out.
Size: 20-45 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: Tail fully-fluffed out. Ears perky.
Size: 21-60 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: Fully-furred. Active at night.
Size: 23-75 grams
Distinguishing Characteristics: Very active at night. Self-sufficient.
TIME TO HEAD OUT INTO THE “REAL WORLD”!