New gliding possum species detected in SA

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

A new species of gliding possum in South Australia has been detected in the South East by a University of Adelaide researcher.

Mansoureh Malekian, a PhD student studying the conservation genetics of sugar gliders in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, identified the Squirrel Glider, previously thought to have been contained to areas east of the Grampians in Victoria.

Prior to the discovery, it was thought that only three species of gliding possum occurred in South Australia - the Sugar Glider, Feathertail Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider. The confirmation of Squirrel Gliders in the state raises SA's glider tally to four species.

SA Environment and Conservation Minister, Gail Gago, said that the specimens had been submitted to the Museum as animals killed by cats, and had been presumed to be the more common sugar glider species.

"It was not until a genetic investigation of these animals was conducted by researchers from the University of Adelaide that their true identity was confirmed," Minister Gago said.

"They were not Sugar Gliders as originally suspected, but rather the larger and more rare Squirrel Glider. This provided the first hard evidence of Squirrel Gliders occurring in South Australia since 1939."

The search is now on for more localities where Squirrel Gliders might occur in the South East.

Bordertown district residents are being urged to report potential glider sightings to departmental wildlife officers. This will help identify additional areas to be surveyed.

Squirrel Gliders are about the size of a large rat and covered in soft, pale grey fur. They have a black stripe that runs down the middle of their back and extends to their forehead. They are similar in appearance to the Sugar Glider, but larger. Both species inhabit a range of forest and woodlands.

Mansoureh Malekian is supervised by Dr Sue Carthew from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Dr Steven Cooper from the South Australian Museum. Drs Carthew and Cooper have been studying the distribution, ecology and genetics of glider species for a number of years.


Contact Details

Dr Sue Carthew
Head of Environmental Biology
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Adelaide
Business: (08) 8313 8288
Mobile: 0419 812 309

Dr Steve Cooper
Research scientist
South Australian Museum
Business: (08) 8313 5575