Sugar of marsupial flying squirrels, which are widespread in Australia and are becoming increasingly popular Pets, offered to split into three separate species based on genetics and morphology. On this insist the authors of an article published in the journal Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The discovery is important not only systematic, but also from the conservation point of view: the fact that populations of two of the three freshly isolated species of marsupials letjag suffer from forest fires and introduced predators.
Sugar marsupial flying squirrels (Petaurus breviceps) are widely distributed in the forests on the North and East Australia and also in New Guinea. These unusual animals have mastered gliding flight, well known to local residents, and in recent decades they are increasingly being kept as exotic Pets.
According to the traditional view, in Australia there are three subspecies of sugar marsupial flying squirrels selected on the basis of differences in coloration, morphology and geographical distribution. P. b. breviceps inhabits the Southeast of the continent (and Tasmania where it was introduced by people in the nineteenth century), P. b. longicaudatus — North-East, and P. b. ariel — North and North-West.
However, new genetic studies cast doubt on the established systematics of this species. Some of them indicate that the Northern subspecies of marsupial sugar letjag closer to other species of the genus Petaurus, than the southern counterparts. To understand this complex picture decided experts led by Teigan a Cremona (Teigan Cremona) from Charles Darwin University.
The researchers analyzed about 150 samples of skin sugar marsupial of flying squirrels from Northern Australia and the Zoological museums worldwide. The sample included data about similar types of the same kind. In addition, the team members undertook the measurement of 304 skulls of sugar marsupial flying squirrels and their relatives.
The study showed that the marsupial sugar letjag should be regarded as three separate species. The Northern subspecies P. b. ariel , the authors propose to elevate to separate species, called Bush marsupial flying squirrel (P. ariel). Another two species do not correspond to the traditional subspecies. According to genetic and morphological data, the boundary between them passes along the Great Dividing range. In the vast territory to the West, and in Tasmania, is inhabited by a marsupial flying squirrel Krefft (P. notatus), named in honor of Gerard Krefft, one of the first zoologists and paleontologists Australia. The area actually sugar marsupial flying squirrels (P. breviceps) was reduced to a narrow strip East of the Great Dividing range.
Many Australian mammals are threatened with disappearance through the fault of introduced predators and competitors, and also because of habitat destruction. Against this background, the provision of widespread and numerous sugar marsupial flying squirrels seemed relatively safe: the international Union for conservation of nature as a species that causes the least concern (Least concern, LC). But everything changes, when viewed as three separate species.
If marsupial flying squirrel Krefft still seems quite numerous and widespread, the populations of two other species is a serious concern. For example, a significant portion of the range of sugar marsupial flying squirrels (in the narrow sense) was destroyed during a large-scale forest fires 2019-2020. Savannah marsupial flying squirrel is also experiencing difficulties over the last 30 years its range has contracted by 35 percent.
The authors hope that in the near future there will be a thorough study of the populations of all three species of marsupial flying squirrels. This will increase the chances that they disappear shortly after received scientific description. In addition, you should study the kinship of sugar marsupial flying possums of New Guinea.
In Australia regularly find new species of reptiles and invertebrates, however, unknown to science mammal detect relatively rare. For example, a few years ago was described two new species of marsupial mice (Antechinus). Representatives of this genus are widely known for its “suicidal” sexual behavior: males marsupial mice during mating season so exhaust the fights with the other dogs and regular pairings that will soon die.
Sergey Knee High