Philippine flying lemur

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Philippine flying lemur
Flying Lemur & Baby, Bohol.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Dermoptera
Family: Cynocephalidae
Genus: Cynocephalus
Boddaert, 1768
Species: C. volans
Binomial name
Cynocephalus volans
(Linnaeus, 1758) [2]
Philippine Flying Lemur area.png
Philippine flying lemur range

The Philippine flying lemur (Cynocephalus volans), known locally as the kagwang, is one of two species of flying lemurs, the only two living species in the order Dermoptera.[3] Additionally, it is the only member of the genus Cynocephalus. The other species is the Sunda flying lemur. Recent research from genetic analysis suggests that two other species, the Bornean flying lemur and the Javan flying lemur, may exist as well but they have yet to be officially classified as so. Although called a flying lemur, it cannot fly and is not a lemur. Both species of Dermoptera are classified under the superorder Euarchonta which includes the Scandentia and the Primates as well as an extinct order of mammals, the Plesiadapiformes.[4]


The Philippine flying lemur is endemic to the southern Philippines.[5] Its population is concentrated in the Mindanao region and Bohol. Colugos live in heavily forested areas, living mainly high up in the trees in lowland and mountainous forests or sometimes in coconut and rubber plantations, rarely coming down to the ground. [5] The types of forests they inhabit are mainly primary and secondary forests.[6] A primary forest is an undisturbed, matured forest that has been existing for a long amount of time and a secondary forest is a regrowing forest that has not yet reached a mature status after a major disturbance such as a fire or deforestation.

Physical features[edit]

Cynocephalus Volans

An average Philippine flying lemur weighs about 1 to 1.7 kg (2.2 to 3.7 lb) and is 14 to 17 in (36 to 43 cm) long. The species does exhibit sexual dimorphism where females are a bit larger than males. It has a wide head and rostrum with a robust mandible for increased bite strength, small ears, and big eyes with unique photoreceptor adaptations adapted for its nocturnal lifestyle. The large eyes allow for excellent vision which the colugo uses to accurately jump and glide from tree to tree. [7] It has an avascular retina which is not typical of mammals suggesting that this is a primitive trait; but on par with other nocturnal mammals, specifically nocturnal primates, the rod cells in the eye make up about 95-99% of the photoreceptors and cones make up about 1-5%.[4]Its clawed feet are large and sharp with an incredible grip strength, allowing them to skillfully, but slowly climb trees, hang from branches, or anchor themselves to the trunk of a tree. [7] One unique feature of the colugo is the patagium, or the weblike membrane that connects its limbs to allow for gliding. Unlike other mammals with patagia, its patagium extends from the neck to the limbs, in between digits, and even behind the hind limbs and the tail. Their keeled sternum, which is also seen in bats, aids in their gliding efficiency. [5] Its patagium is the most extensive membrane used for gliding in mammals and also functions as a hammock-like pouch for their young. This membrane helps it glide distances of 100 m or more, useful for finding food and escaping predators, such as the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and tree-climbing snakes who try to attack the colugos when they glide between trees.[8][9] The dental formula of Philippine flying lemur is 2/3, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3 with a total of 34 teeth. The first two lower procumbant incisors are pectinate with up to 15 tines which are thought to be used for grooming and grating food. [5] The upper incisors are small and have spaces between them as well. [5]The deciduous teeth are serrated until they are lost and then they are replaced with blade like teeth, designed to shear along with the molars that also have long shearing crests to help break down the plant matter they are ingesting.[10] Following mechanical digestion, the digestive tract of the Philippine flying lemur, especially the stomach, is specially adapted to break down and process the large amount of leaves and vegetation they ingest.[7] Colugos also have a brownish grey-and-white pelage that they use as camouflage amongst the tree trunks and branches which allows them to better hide from predators and hunters alike. [5]


The Philippine flying lemur is a folivore eating mainly young leaves and occasionally soft fruits, flowers, and plant shoots. They also manage to obtain a significant amount of their water from licking wet leaves and from the water in the plants and fruits themselves.[7] Most of their nutrition is obtained from jumping and gliding between trees high in the canopy; rarely do they eat on the forest floor.


The Philippine flying lemur is arboreal and nocturnal and usually resides in primary and secondary forests. However, some wander into coconut, banana, and rubber plantations as deforestation for farming and industry is an increasingly prevalent problem. The colugo sleeps in hollow trees or clings onto branches in dense foliage during daytime. [9] When they engage in this hanging behavior from branches, they keep their heads upright, unlike bats. [5] On the ground, colugos are slow and clumsy, and not able to stand erect so they rarely leave the canopy level of the forest where they glide from tree to tree to get to food or their nests which are also high in the trees. But, in the trees colugos are quite effective climbers, even though they are slow; they move in a series of lingering hops as they use their claws to move up the tree trunk.[7] Foraging only at night, colugos on average forage for 9.4 minutes about 12 times per night. [5] Colugos typically leave their nests at dusk to begin their foraging activity. [6] When foraging, returning to the nest, or just moving around, the Philippine flying lemur uses its patagium to glide from tree to tree. But, the patagium is also used for cloaking the colugo when it is clinging to a tree trunk or branch and sometimes they are even seen curled up in a ball, using their patagium again as a cloaking mechanism among palm fronds often in coconut plantations. [7]

Patagium seen on museum specimen colugo

Colugos maintain height in the trees to avoid predators that may live in lower levels but they are still susceptible to other predators that can reach these higher levels of the canopy and predatory birds who can attack from above. They live alone, but multiple may be seen in the same tree where they maintain their distance from one another and are very territorial of their personal areas. [9] Even though they are not social mammals, they do engage in a unique semi-social behavior where colugos living in the same relative area or tree follow each other's gliding paths through the trees in search of food. [9] This may be a defense mechanism where, as a population, the safest route possible is determined and shared as a sort of cooperative mechanism for increased survival rates. The only time colugos will actually live socially is after a mother has given birth; then she will care for and live with her offspring until they no longer need to lactate, at that point the offspring is on his own. [9] The average lifespan of the Philippine flying lemur is unknown.


Little is known about the reproductive behavior in colugos. The female Philippine flying lemur usually gives birth to one young after a two-month gestation period.[6] The young is born undeveloped and helpless and it attaches itself to its mother's belly, in a pouch formed from the mother's tail membrane. They are eventually weaned off at around 6 months and they leave their mother's patagium [6] Adult size and sexual maturity is reached between two to three years of age.[7]Mating usually occurs somewhere between January and March. [9]


Mother with infant

Due to the phylogenetic, morphological, and ecological uniqueness of the order Dermoptera, conservation efforts in respect to this species are highly important and must be reassessed and continued, especially due to the recent discoveries of the potential new Bornean and Javan species that are genetically and morphologically different.[11] The IUCN 1996 had declared the species vulnerable owing to the destruction of lowland forests and to hunting, but it was downlisted to Least Concern in 2008. The 2008 IUCN report indicates the species persists in the face of degraded habitat, with its current population large enough to avoid the threatened category.[1] Since colugos have limited dispersal abilities, they are increasingly vulnerable as deforestation is occurring at increasingly higher rates.[11] Other threats to the species include hunting by the farmers of they plantations they sometimes invade where they are considered pests, since they eat fruits and flowers. In local cultures their flesh is also cooked as a delicacy; other uses of the colugo vary in different regions of the Philippines. In Bohol and their fur is used as material for native hats, but in Samar the species is considered a bad omen and are killed either to be used as a warning or to get rid of the omen. [1]


  1. ^ a b c Gonzalez, J. C., Custodia, C., Carino, P. & Pamaong-Jose, R. (2008). Cynocephalus volans. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
  2. ^ Linnæus, Carl (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I (in Latin) (10 ed.). Holmiæ: Laurentius Salvius. p. 30. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Stafford, B. J. (2005). "Order Dermoptera". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  4. ^ a b Moritz, Gillian L.; Lim, Norman T.-L.; Neitz, Maureen; Peich, Leo; Dominy, Nathaniel J. (2013). "Expression and Evolution of Short Wavelength Sensitive Opsins in Colugos: A Nocturnal Lineage That Informs Debate on Primate Origins". Journal of Evolutionary Biology 40 (4): 542–553. doi:10.1007/s11692-013-9230-y. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Feldhamer, George A.; Drickamer, Lee C.; Vessey, Stephen H.; Merritt, Joseph F.; Krajewski, Carey. Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology (3 ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 253–254. ISBN 978-0--8018-8695-9. 
  6. ^ a b c d Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g MacKinnon, K. (2006) Colugos. In: Macdonald, D.W. (Ed) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  8. ^ "Philippine Eagle" (Video). Retrieved 22 November 2012. Philippine eagle hunting and catching flying lemur 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Philippine Flying Lemur (Colugo)." Encyclopedia Of Animals (2006): 1. Middle Search Plus. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.
  10. ^ Stafford, Brian J.; Szalay, Frederick S. (2000). %3E2.0.CO%3B2 "CRANIODENTAL FUNCTIONAL MORPHOLOGY AND TAXONOMY OF DERMOPTERANS". Journal of Mammalogy 81 (2): 360–385. Retrieved Dec 3, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Janecka, Jan E.; Helgen, Kristofer M.; Lim, Norman T.-L.; Baba, Minoru; Izawa, Masako; Boeadi, Boeadi; Murphy, William J. (2008). "Evidence for multiple species of Sunda colugo". Current Biology 18 (21): R1001–R1002. 

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