Sunda flying lemur

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Sunda flying lemur
Kaguaani 02.jpg
Sunda flying lemur
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Dermoptera
Family: Cynocephalidae
Genus: Galeopterus
Thomas, 1908
G. variegatus[1]
Binomial name
Galeopterus variegatus[1]
(Audebert, 1799)
Sunda Flying Lemur area.png
Sunda flying lemur range

The Sunda flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus), also known as Sunda colugo, Malayan flying lemur and Malayan colugo, is native to Southeast Asia ranging from southern Myanmar, Thailand, southern Vietnam, Malaysia to Singapore and Indonesia.[3]

Although it is called "flying lemur", it cannot fly but glides among trees and is strictly arboreal. It is active at night, and feeds on soft plant parts such as young leaves, shoots, flowers, and fruits. After a 60-day gestation period, a single offspring is carried on the mother's abdomen held by a large skin membrane.[4][5] It is a forest-dependent species.

The Sunda flying lemur is protected by national legislation. The Sunda flying lemurs are often hunted by local people with spears or other lethal equipment for various reasons such as food and fur. Habitat loss is known to occur intermittently, particularly in developing countries such as Malaysia.[3] In addition to deforestation and loss of habitat, local subsistence hunting poses a serious threat to this animal. Competition with the plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) represents another challenge for this species. More information is needed on population declines, but at present, the rate of the decline is not believed to merit listing in any category lower than least concern.[2]

Taxonomy and evolution[edit]

Jaw with teeth

The Sunda flying lemurs' two forms are not morphologically distinct from one another; the large form occurs on the mainland of the Sunda Shelf area and the mainland of Southeast Asia, while the dwarf form occurs in central Laos and some other adjacent islands.[1] The Laos specimen is smaller (about 20%) than the other known mainland population.[6] Despite the large and dwarf forms, four subspecies are known: G. v. variegatus (Java), G. v. temminckii (Sumatra), G. v. borneanus (Borneo), and G. v. peninsulae (Peninsular Malaysia and mainland of Southeast Asia)[1] incorporating on the genetic species concept due to geographic isolation and genetic divergence. Recent molecular and morphological data provide the evidence that the mainland, Javan, and Bornean Sunda flying lemur subspecies may be recognised as three separate species in the genus Galeopterus.[7]


The Sunda flying lemur is a skillful climber, but is nearly helpless when on the ground.[8] Its gliding membrane connects from the neck, extending along the limbs to the tips of the fingers, toes, and nails.[9] This kite-shaped skin is known as a patagium, which is expanded for gliding. It can glide over a distance of 100 m with a loss of fewer than 10 m in elevation.[9] It has a dorsiflexed and abducted foot while having an abducted clawed grasp. This technique help to climb trees easier and faster while looking for food or staying away from predators.[10]

The head-body length of Sunda flying lemur is about 33 to 42 cm (13 to 17 in). Its tail length measures 18 to 27 cm (7.1 to 10.6 in),[11] its hind legs measure between 6.5 to 7.3 cm (2.6 to 2.9 in) long. It weighs 0.9 to 1.3 kg (2.0 to 2.9 lb).[12]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Sunda flying lemur is widely distributed throughout Southeast Asia, ranging from the Sunda Shelf mainland to other islands – Northern Laos,[6] Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak), Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatra, Bali, Java),[1][13] and many adjacent islands.[14] Conversely, the Philippine flying lemur (C. volans) is confined to the southern parts of the Philippines only.[1]

The Sunda flying lemur is adapted to many different vegetation types, including gardens, primary and secondary forest,[15] rubber and coconut plantations,[16] fruit orchards (dusun),[17] mangrove swamps,[18] lowlands and upland forests,[9][19] tree plantations,[14] lowland dipterocarp forests, and mountainous areas,[20] but not all of these habitats can sustain large colugo populations.[21]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

The Sunda flying lemur is nocturnal, but is sometimes active in the morning and in the afternoon.[12] It can maneuver and navigate while gliding, but strong rain and wind can affect its ability to glide. Gliding usually occurs in open areas or high in the canopy, especially in dense tropical rainforest. It needs a certain distance to glide and to land to avoid injury.[22] The highest landing forces are experienced after short glides; longer glides lead to softer landings, due to its ability to brake its glide aerodynamically. The ability to glide increases a colugo's access to scattered food resources in the rainforest, without increasing exposure to terrestrial or arboreal predators.[23]

The Sunda flying lemur mainly forages in tree canopies on several different tree species in a single night,[24][25] or on a single species. It has also been observed licking tree bark of selected tree species to obtain water, nutrients, salts, and minerals.[26] In general, its diet consists mainly of leaves; it usually consumes leaves with less potassium and nitrogen-containing compounds, but with higher tannin.[27] It also feeds on buds,[18] shoots,[14] flowers of coconut and durian trees[17] fruits and sap[20] from selected tree species. It also feeds on insects in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.[28] The selected food sources depend on the localities, habitat, vegetation types, and availability.[29]


  1. ^ a b c d e Stafford B.J.; Szalay F.S. (2000). "Craniodental functional morphology and taxonomy of Dermopterans". Journal of Mammalogy. 81 (2): 360–385. doi:10.1093/jmammal/81.2.360.
  2. ^ a b Boeadi.; Steinmetz, R. (2008). "Galeopterus variegatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008: e.T41502A10479343. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T41502A10479343.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b Nasir, M. D. & Abdullah, M. T. (2010). "Distribution of the Sunda Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) in Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak)". Tropical Life Sciences Research. 21 (2): 69–83. PMC 3819077. PMID 24575200.
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  5. ^ ZipCodeZoo: Malayan Flying Lemur Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Ruggeri N.; Etterson M. (1998). "The first record of colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) from the Lao P.D.R.". Mammalia. 62 (3): 450–451. doi:10.1515/mamm.1998.62.3.439.
  7. ^ Janecka, J.E.; Helgen, K.M.; Lim, N.T.L.; Baba, M.; Izawa, M.; Boeadi; Murphy, W.J. (2008). "Evidence for multiple species of Sunda Colugo". Current Biology. 18 (21): R1001–1002. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.09.005. PMID 19000793.
  8. ^ Vaughan, T.A. (1986). Mammalogy. 3rd edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia.
  9. ^ a b c Feldhamer, G.A., Drickamer, L.C., Vessey, S.H. and Merritt, J.F. (2003). Mammalogy: adaptation, diversity, and ecology. 2nd edition. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., New York.
  10. ^ Youlatos, D.; Widayati, K.A.; Tsuji, Y. (2019). "Foot postures and grasping of free-ranging Sunda colugos (Galeopterus variegatus) in West Java, Indonesia". Mammalian Biology. 95: 164–172. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2018.06.004. ISSN 1616-5047.
  11. ^ Shepherd, C. R.; Shepherd, L. A. (2012). A Naturalist's Guide to the Mammals of Southeast Asia. Wiltshire, UK: John Beaufoy Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-906780-71-5.
  12. ^ a b Payne, J., C.M. Francis, K. Phillipps, S.N. Kartikasari. 2000. Panduan Lapangan Mamalia di Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak & Brunei Darussalam: 175, LG 19. Bogor: WCS-IP, The Sabah Society & WWF Malaysia.
  13. ^ Corbet, G.B. and Hill, J.E. (1992). The mammals of the Indomalayan region: A systematic review. Natural History Museum Publications. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  14. ^ a b c Francis, C.M. (2008). A field guide to the mammals of south-east Asia. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd., London.
  15. ^ Lekagul, B. and McNeely, J.A. (1977). Mammals of Thailand. Kurusapha Ladprao Press, Bangrak (Bangkok).
  16. ^ Hill, J.E. (1993). Flying lemurs (in encyclopedia of animals). Weldon Owen Pty Limited, Singapore.
  17. ^ a b Ketol B.; Abdullah M.T.; Tedong S. (2006). "Distribution records of the rare flying lemur in Kota Samarahan and Kuching Area, Sarawak". Sarawak Museum Journal. 83: 237–241.
  18. ^ a b Yasuma, S. & Andau, M. (2000). Mammals of Sabah. Vol. Habitat and Ecology. Kota Kinabalu: Tian Sing Printing Co.
  19. ^ Payne, J., Francis, C.M. and Phillipps, K. (1985). A field guide to the mammals of Borneo. Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu.
  20. ^ a b Lim, B.L. (1967). "Observations on the food habits and ecological habitat of the Malaysian flying lemur". International Zoo Yearbook. 7: 196–197.
  21. ^ Lim, N.T.-L.; Giam, X.; Byrnes, G.; Clements, G.R. (2013). "Occurrence of the Sunda colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) in the tropical forests of Singapore: A Bayesian approach". Mammalian Biology. 78: 63–67. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2012.06.008.
  22. ^ Byrnes G.; Norman T.-L. Lim; Spence, A.J. (2008). "Take-off and landing kinetics of a free-ranging gliding mammal, the Malayan Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus)". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 275 (1638): 1007–1013. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1684. PMC 2600906. PMID 18252673.
  23. ^ Byrnes G.; Libby, T.; Lim, N.T.-L.; Spence, A.J. (2011). "Gliding saves time but not energy in Malayan Colugos". Journal of Experimental Biology. 214 (16): 2690–2696. doi:10.1242/jeb.052993. PMID 21795564.
  24. ^ Wischusen, E.W. (1990). The foraging ecology and natural history of the Philippine flying lemur (Cynocephalus volans). PhD Thesis. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
  25. ^ Wischusen, E.W.; Richmond, M.E. (1998). "Foraging ecology of the Philippine Flying Lemur (Cynocephalus volans)". Journal of Mammalogy. 79 (4): 1288–1295. doi:10.2307/1383020. JSTOR 1383020.
  26. ^ Lim, N.T-L. (2007). Colugo: The flying lemur of South-East Asia. Draco Publishing and Distribution Pte Ltd., Singapore.
  27. ^ Agoramoorthy G.; Sha C.M.; Hsu M.J. (2006). "Population, diet and conservation of Malayan flying lemurs in altered and fragmented habitats in Singapore". Biodiversity and Conservation. 15 (7): 2177–2185. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-6900-1. S2CID 24313720.
  28. ^ Davis D D. (1958). Mammals of the Kelabit Plateau Northern Sarawak. Chicago: Chicago Natural History Museum.
  29. ^ Sih, A. (1993). Effects of ecological interactions on forager diets: Competition, predation risk, parasitism and prey behavior. In diet selection: An interdisciplinary approach to foraging behavior (Hughes, R.N. eds). Blackwell Scientific Publications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Further reading[edit]

  • Anon, (2008). Flying lemurs mating, Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Accessed date October 7, 2008.
  • Byrnes G.; Libby Thomas; Norman T.-L. Lim; Andrew J. Spence (2011). "Gliding saves time but not energy in Malayan Colugos". Journal of Experimental Biology. 214 (16): 2690–2696. doi:10.1242/jeb.052993. PMID 21795564.
  • Chapman H.C. (1902). "Observations upon Galeopithecus volans". Proceedings of the Academy of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 54: 241–254.
  • Chasen F.N.; Kloss C.B. (1929). "Notes on flying lemurs (Galeopterus)". Bulletin of the Raffles Museum. 2: 12–22.
  • Dzulhelmi M.N.; Abdullah M.T. (2009a). "An ethogram construction for the Malayan flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus) in Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia". Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation. 5 (1): 31–42.
  • Dzulhelmi M.N.; Abdullah M.T. (2009d). "The foraging ecology of the Sunda Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) in Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia". Malayan Nature Journal. 61 (4): 285–294.
  • Dzulhelmi M.N.; Abdullah M.T. (2010). "Distribution of the Sunda Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) in Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak)". Journal of Tropical Life Sciences Research. 21 (2): 69–83. PMC 3819077. PMID 24575200.
  • Dzulhelmi, M.N., Marzuki, H. and Abdullah, M.T. (2010). Observation on the roosting selection of the Sunda Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) in Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Proceedings of Conference on Natural Resources in the Tropics3: Harnessing Tropical Natural Resources Through Innovations and Technologies. pp. 433–439.
  • Dzulhelmi, M.N. (2011). Behavioural Ecology of the Sunda Colugo Galeopterus variegatus (Mammalia: Dermoptera) in Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia . MSc. Dissertations. Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan.
  • Dzulhelmi, N. (2013). Natural History of the Colugo. UKM Press: Bangi.
  • Ellerman, J.R. and Morrison-Scott, T.C.S. (1955). Supplement to Chasen, F.N. (1940): A handlist of Malaysian mammals. British Museum. Tonbridge Printers Ltd., London.
  • Janecka J.E.; Miller W.; Pringle T.H.; Wiens F.; Zitzmann A.; Helgen K.M.; Springer M.S.; Murphy W.J. (2007). "Molecular and genomic data identify the closest living relative of primates". Science. 318 (5851): 792–794. Bibcode:2007Sci...318..792J. doi:10.1126/science.1147555. PMID 17975064. S2CID 12251814.
  • Karim C.; Tuen A.A.; Abdullah M.T. (2004). "Mammals. Sarawak Bau Limestone Biodiversity". Sarawak Museum Journal. 6 (80): 221–234.
  • Khan, M.M. (1992). Mamalia semenanjung Malaysia. Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Kuala Lumpur.
  • Kool, K.M. and Nawi, Y. (1995). Catalogue of skin in Sarawak museum, Kuching, Sarawak. Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan.
  • Lewis R.E. (1986). "A rain-forest raptor in danger". Oryx. 20 (3): 170–175. doi:10.1017/s0030605300020032.
  • Lim, N.T. (2004). Autecology and a preliminary population census of the Malayan flying lemur Cynocephalus variegatus in Singapore. BSc. Final Year Project. National University of Singapor, Singapore.
  • Martin R.D. (2008). "Colugos: obscure mammals glide into the evolutionary limelight". Journal of Biology. 7 (4): 13. doi:10.1186/jbiol74. PMC 2397492. PMID 18466644.
  • Maryanto, I., Anang, S.A., and Agus, P.K. (2008). Mamalia dilindungi perundang-undangan Indonesia. LIPI Press, Jakarta.
  • Medway, L. (1978). The wild mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore. Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur.
  • Mohd-Azlan J.; Fauzi M.F. (2006). "Ethnozoological survey in selected areas in Sarawak". Sarawak Museum Journal. 83: 185–200.
  • Miller G.S. Jr (1906). "The nomenclature of flying lemur". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 19: 41–48.
  • Nie W.; Fu B.; O'Brian P.C.M.; Wang J.; Su W.; Tanomtong A.; Volobouev V.; Ferguson-Smith M.A.; Yang F. (2008). "Flying lemurs – the "flying tree-shrews"? molecular cytogenetic evidence for a Scandentia-Dermoptera sister clade". BMC Biology. 6: 18. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-18. PMC 2386441. PMID 18452598.
  • Novacek M.J. (1992). "Fossils, topologies, missing data, and higher level phylogeny of eutherian mammals". Systematic Biology. 41 (1): 58–73. doi:10.1093/sysbio/41.1.58.
  • Novacek M.J. (1993). "Mammalian phylogeny: morphology and molecules". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 8 (9): 339–340. doi:10.1016/0169-5347(93)90245-k. PMID 21236186.
  • Nowak, R.M. (1999). Mammals of the world. 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  • Parr, J.W.K., Komolphalin, K. and Wongkalasin, M. (2003). A guide to the large mammals of Thailand. Sarakadee Press, Bangkok.
  • Penry, D.L. (1993). Digestive constraints on diet selection. In diet selection: An interdisciplinary approach to foraging behaviour (Hughes, R.N. eds). Blackwell Scientific Publications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Pettigrew J.D. (1995). "Flying primates: crashed or crashed through?". Symp. Zoological Society of London. 67: 3–26.
  • Schmitz J.; Ohme M.; Suryobroto B.; Zichler H. (2002). "The colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus), Dermoptera: the Primates' gliding sister?". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 19 (12): 2308–2312. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a004054. PMID 12446821.
  • Schmitz J.; Ohme M.; Zichler H. (2003). "A novel family of tRNA-derived SINEs in the colugo and two new retrotransposable markers separating dermopterans from primates". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 28 (2): 341–349. doi:10.1016/s1055-7903(03)00060-5. PMID 12878470.
  • Stephen, D.W. and Krebs, J.R. (1986). Foraging theory. Princeton University Press, England.
  • Wharton C.H. (1950). "Notes on the life history of the flying lemur". Journal of Mammalogy. 31 (3): 269–273. doi:10.2307/1375292. JSTOR 1375292.
  • Wischusen E.W.; Richmond M.E. (1989). "Techniques for capturing and marking the Philippine flying lemurs (Cynocephalus volans)". Malayan Nature Journal. 43: 100–105.

External links[edit]