MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: I am wondering about the gliding mechanisms of colugos, order Dermoptera.

Date: Thu Oct 14 12:56:08 1999
Posted By: June M. Wingert , RM(NRM), Research Associate, Comparative Pathology Department, Baylor College of Medicine
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 939747982.Zo

The order Dermoptera includes only two known families, Plagiomenidae which inhabited North America 60 to 70 million years ago, and Cynocephalidae, or colugos of Southeast Asia.

Classification of the Cynocephalidae family has been a problem because it has no fossil record. For many years the Cynocephalidae was named Galeoopithecidae meaning "cloaked monkeys". Now it is recognized that colugos are probably remnants of an ancient specialized mammalian side-branch.

The colugo, sometimes called the flying lemur, is not a lemur and does not fly but glides on flaps of skin called patagium. The patagium stretches from the side of the animals neck to the tip of the fingers and toes and continues to the tip of the tail. Colugos can make controlled glides of 70 meters or more using this kite like feature. Colugos live in the multi-layered rain forest or rubber plantations where they glide in the canopy. Claws on the toes and fingers aid in tree climbing. They are so arboreal in habit that if they are on the ground colugos are almost helpless. Large eyes and stereoscopic vision gives good depth perception and night vision for these gliding nocturnal animals. The head is broad, like a greyhound's in appearance. Head-body length varies from 33-42 cm; tail length range from 22-27 cm. Fur is usually a grayish brown color with white spots on dorsal side and paler gray on ventral side of the body. Males tend to have more of a reddish-brown color of fur.

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