Friday, 25 July 2008

Flying Squirrels

Rocky & Bullwinkle featured a Jet Age ace named Rocky. Many other animated films or shorts have featured the same type of animal - a flying squirrel. Flying squirrels are a type of squirrel with forty three different types of squirrels in their family. Unlike what their name suggests, flying squirrels do not really fly. A more appropriate name would be a gliding squirrel.

Flying squirrels "fly" through the use of the patagium. The patagium is a flap of skin forming a parachute-like extension of the body which catches air and allows the squirrel to glide. Steering is accomplished by modifying the taughtness of the patagium. To adjust the patagium, the squirrel moves a cartilaginous wrist bone. While in flight, the squirrel uses its tail as a stabilizer. Prior to landing, the tail serves the purpose of acting as a brake. The brake function is necessary because a squirrel can be moving pretty quickly prior to landing on the new tree.

These little squirrels are known to live between 10 and 15 years in captivity. While in the wild, they generally have a life span of about 6 years. The difference in life span isn't due to some increase in the quality of food or availability of food in captivity (though that probably plays a roll), but rather to a significant drop in the number of predators with which a flying squirrel must contend. In the wild, flying squirrels are a popular part of a large number of predators' diets. Everyone from house cats to birds and even raccoons enjoys a flying squirrel for dinner.

In addition, flying squirrels are mammals that are nocturnal. Nocturnal means that they are active in the evening or during the night hours and sleep for the majority of the day. These cute little guys will eat pretty much anything they can get their hands on. Like all squirrels, they enjoy the fruits of a variety of trees like acorns. They are also known to eat insects, seeds, spiders, slugs, snails, tree and shrub buds, flowers, berries, bird eggs and babies, and tree sap.

When keeping a flying squirrel as a pet, it is important to be aware of their natural tendency towards a calcium deficiency. To combat this, calcium and vitamin D supplements should be added to the squirrels food while the amount of phosphorous should be limited. In addition, providing a calcium block or cuttlebone as well as a mineral block will help to keep the squirrel's life healthy.

Flying Squirrels

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