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Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) Fact Sheet: Summary

Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) Fact Sheet

Sugar glider on tree branch

Sugar glider, Petaurus breviceps

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia — mammals

Order: Diprotodontia — koala, wombats, possums and gliders, kangaroos, wallabies

Family: Petauridae — lesser gliders, striped possum, Leadbeater’s possum

Genus: Petaurus — lesser gliders

Species: Petaurus breviceps* — sugar glider

P. b. breviceps
P. b. ariel
P. b. longicaudatus
P. b. papuanus

*Note: May be several species. Additional research needed.

Body Weight
60-150 g (2-5.3 oz)

Head-body Length
115-210 mm (4.52-8.3 in)

Tail Length
150-210 mm (5.9-8.3 in)

Fur fine and silky; aids gliding. Coloration variable throughout range: upperparts gray, underparts pale cream to medium gray, tail dark gray.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Australia (including Tasmania), New Guinea and neighboring islands. Most widespread marsupial in Australasia.

Various kinds of forests: mature forest, young-growth forest, fragmented/degraded forests, and plantations and rural gardens. Require tree hollows for nesting and breeding.

IUCN Status
Least Concern (2016 assessment)

CITES Appendix
Not listed

Other Designations
Protected in Australia and Tasmania

Populations in the Wild
No scientific studies. Considered common. Populations considered stable.

Strong climbers. Skin membrane between front and hind limbs allows gliding from tree to tree. Capable of making tight turns, mid-air.

Activity Cycle
Forage at night. Rest during the day in nest in tree hollow. When food is scarce or nights are cold, use torpor to conserve energy.

Social Groups
Nest in groups. Commonly 2 to 7 adults and their young (up to 10 to 12 individuals in total). Territory maintained by 1 or 2 dominant males.

Plant sap and gum, nectar, pollen, manna. Insects, their larvae, and the secreted substances (lerp, honeydew) of sap-sucking insects; spiders; small birds.

Owls, kookaburras, pythons, goanna lizards, feral cats, house cats. Possibly foxes.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity
Approximately 12 to 18 months

Mating System
Often polygynous (males mate with multiple females); monogamy observed where food is very limited.

15 to 17 days

Litter Size
Typically 2 young. Less commonly, 1 or 3 young.

Interbirth Interval
Females breed each year. Produce 1 to 2 litters per year.

Birth Weight
Not well documented. In one study, 0.19 g (0.0067 oz).

Typical Life Expectancy
Wild populations: 4 to 5 years
Managed care: long-lived; no AZA estimates

Feature Facts

  • One of the smallest marsupial gliders
  • Common name refers to this animal’s preference for sweet foods
  • Flexible skin membrane between wrist and ankle for gliding
  • Fur texture increases lift and aids gliding
  • Carry nesting material in semi-prehensile tail
  • Sharp lower teeth for biting into tree bark and territory defense
  • Each social group has a distinctive scent that helps members recognize one another; fiercely defend territories
  • Thought to be an important pollinator of native plants
  • In Tasmania, sugar gliders prey heavily on birds, some of which are endangered species
  • Popular pet in the United States and Japan

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.


© 2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


How to cite: Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) Fact Sheet. c2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. sugarglider.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2018 Dec 31)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Many thanks to Dr. Ross Goldingay for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

Dr. Goldingay, Associate Professor in the School of Environment, Science, and Engineering at Southern Cross University, Lismore, is a wildlife ecologist who has extensively studied the biology of gliding mammals. In his early research, he conducted experiments that revealed sugar gliders to be important pollinators. He has also conducted research on glider habitat use, population ecology and genetics, communication, parental care, physiology, and locomotion.

Much of Dr. Goldingay’s research relates to the protection of threated species. He has conducted numerous studies to assess the impacts of habitat loss on wildlife behavior and population health. He has led longer-term studies to evaluate whether gliders use artificial nest boxes (as substitute tree hollows), as well as whether the installation of wooden poles and rope bridges enables gliders to safely cross roads. To learn more about Dr. Goldingay, view his research profile and publications.

In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Goldingay is editor of Australian Mammalogy, the journal of the Australian Mammal Society.

Thank you to Dr. Stephen Jackson for providing helpful suggestions for the taxonomy content of this fact sheet.

Dr. Jackson is an internationally recognized scientist, who has made seminal contributions to the field of Australian mammalogy. He is the author of nrenowned books, including Gliding Mammals of the World, Australian Mammals: Biology and Captive Management, and Taxonomy of Australian Mammals.

Thank you to Alyssa Warren for providing expert content review of the Husbandry section of this fact sheet.

As an animal handler at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Ms. Warren gives Park visitors engaging, close encounters with wildlife. Prior to working at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Ms. Warren worked as a marine mammal trainer.

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