Colugo, or Flying Lemur (Order dermoptera)

Cynocephalus volans

Cynocephalus volans

Colugos, who constitute their own order, are extraordinary in that they are the most proficient of the soaring mammals. There are two species – Cynocephalus voluns and Galeopterus variegatus. They seem also to be extraordinarily not known about, at least by me, until quite recently. I was surprised, because I thought I’d heard of all the flying and soaring mammals, but I had not heard of these.

Galeopterus variegatus

Galeopterus veriegatus

Cynocephalus volans (‘dog-headed flier’?) is found in the Philippines, and is commonly referred to as the Philippine Flying Lemur.

Galeopterus variegatus (I have no idea what this means) is more commonly referred to as the Sunda Flying Lemur, and can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

Neither is a Lemur, though, and neither flies.  Instead, they are a distinct branch of mammals, most closely related to primates.  And they are the only extant examples of Order dermoptera.

The colugos are excellent fliers in part because their patagium (flying flap) is as large as is anatomically possible – extending from the tips of their little colugo fingers and toes, to the top of their little dog-looking noggins and to the end of their tails.  They are built like kites – and can even use their tail flap a bit like a temporary pouch for their babies.  Babies whose job it is to cling to their mom’s body as mom soars around the jungle.

Colugos are arboreal, nocturnal, and they eat small, succulent leaves – but not too many, as it seems that the soaring isn’t too energy intensive, so they don’t need much to be happy. They do not want you to catch them and glue tiny cameras to their heads in order to have a colugo cam, which some naturalist did. But I could not find the colugo cam footage to include here. Instead, here’s a video narrated masterfully by David Attenborough, who I wish would narrate everything for me, and whom I’m sure the colugo would like.

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~ by amyfou on April 3, 2011.

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