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Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Diet

Omnivorous

(Smith 1982; Suckling 1984; Howard 1989; Jackson 2015a; Nowak 2018a, except as noted)

  • Plant substances
    • Sap (e.g., Eucalyptus)
    • Gum (e.g., Acacia)
      • Produced at wound sites of trees
    • Nectar
    • Manna
      • Excreted by plants in response to insect damage
    • Pollen
    • In New Guinea: fruits of figs (Ficus) and pitpit (“sugarcane”; Saccharum)
  • Sugary substances excreted by insects
    • Honeydew
    • Lerp (Dierenfeld 2009)
  • Insects and insect larvae
    • Beetles
    • Moths
    • Weevils
    • Caterpillars (Smith 1982)
  • Spiders (arachnids)
  • Small birds

Feeding

Seasonal changes in feeding

  • Diet varies with season, depending on abundance of preferred foods (Smith 1982; Suckling 1984; Howard 1989)
  • Gums and saps consumed year-round (Suckling 1984; Howard 1989; Dierenfeld 2009)
  • Pollen and insects important during spring and summer (Smith 1982; Suckling 1984; Dierenfeld 2009)
    • Nutritional needs differ during breeding, especially for females (Smith 1982; Suckling 1984; Smith and Green 1987; Dierenfeld 2009)

Behavior

  • Chew holes in tree bark to access saps and gums (Smith 1982)
    • Select individual trees with high sap flow (Howard 1989)
    • Gums are an important source of calcium (Suckling 1984; Lindenmayer 1994, 2002)
  • Strip bark from trees to find insects (Fleay 1947)
    • Consume insect body fluids and soft tissues only (Dierenfeld and Whitehouse-Tedd 2018)

Water

  • Obtain about half of needed water from food (Nagy and Suckling 1985)

Digestion

  • Large hindgut cecum (Lindenmayer 2002; Dierenfeld 2009; Jackson 2015b)
    • Might aid digestion of complex carbohydrates (plant gums and some saps) by housing beneficial microbes
      • Not yet experimentally investigated (Dierenfeld 2009)

Mealworm Treat

Sugar glider feeding on mealworm

A sugar glider crushes a mealworm in its molars.

Sugar gliders eat pollen, insects, spiders, and—in some populations—small birds to meet their protein needs.

Nutritionally, obtaining protein may be particularly important for breeding females.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

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