Marsupials: Gliders

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11432

When you think of zipping through the air, you may think of birds and airplanes, things that have wings. But there is a cute animal that glides from place to place without wings! Watch them in action!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Did you know some mammals can glide through the air?
  • Do you know what kind of marsupial is shown above?

The little critter you saw above is called a sugar glider.

This is one of the six species of marsupials that can glide.

  • What does it means to be a marsupial.

If you're not sure, refer to the Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

A marsupial is a mammal that has underdeveloped babies that live in their mother's pouch.

Gliders are interesting critters. They can glide from place to place. If a sugar glider jumps from a high place, like the top of a tree, it will spread out all of its limbs and the loose skin between its legs and arms will catch the air. This allows it to glide down to the ground or another tree safely.

Watch the Cute Sugar Glider In Slow Motion - Earth Unplugged video by BBC Earth Unplugged (below). Answer these questions while watching the video. You will need a pencil and paper for this section:

  1. Where are sugar gliders from?
  2. What do sugar gliders use to glide?
  3. What does the sugar glider do with its body as it is gliding?
  4. Why do sugar gliders glide?
  5. What shape does the sugar glider look like when it is flying?

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 There are six types of gliders:

  1. Northern gliders are a critically endangered species that can be found in the Torricelli Mountains of Papua New Guinea. These gliders look very similar to sugar gliders.
  2. Yellow-bellied gliders live in the eucalyptus forests of Australia. This type of glider has a brownish-grey-colored fur on its back and a yellowish-white belly.
  3. Biak gliders can be found in Indonesia. Biak gliders look very similar to sugar gliders. One thing that makes them different is their dark brown fur on their backs.
  4. Sugar gliders are found in Australia. They have grey fur with a black stripe running down their back. Their belly is white.
  5. Mahogany gliders can be found on the coasts of Australia. Mahogany gliders look nearly identical to sugar gliders, but are just slightly larger in size.
  6. Squirrel gliders live in southeastern Australia. They are double the size of sugar gliders. Their back is either a bluish-grey or a brownish-grey color. Their belly is white.

Mahogany Glider (top) and Sugar Glider (bottom)

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Gliders generally get most of their food from trees. They eat the sap, nectar, pollen, and gum that come from trees. They also eat fruits, like honeydew, and insects. They are omnivores.

  • Based on their diet, what do you think an omnivore is?

Gliders are omnivores because they eat plants and animals.

Before moving on to the next section, say out loud where most gliders are found.

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