The great glider is a marsupial the size of a skunk, endemic in the country (that is, it is characteristic of Australia). Scientists have long suspected that his species, classified as Petauroides volans, was not one. Bingo: researchers from three universities in the country found that, instead of one, there are three species sheltered under the genus Petauroides.
“It has long been speculated that there could be more than one species of large glider. Now, we have the DNA to prove this idea. That will change the whole way we study these animals,” said biologist Denise McGregor of James Cook University. (JCU).
The idea of investigating the genetic similarities and differences between specimens of large gliders came when she analyzed the distance that these animals reached (they glide up to a hundred meters), in addition to the variety of size and physiology between specimens.
The genetic sequencing of the specimens counted on the joint effort of the National Universities of Australia (ANU) and Canberra (UC) and more of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), and confirmed that the great gliders of Australia, in fact , are divided into not one, but three species.
“It is not every day that new mammals are confirmed, let alone two at once,” said JCU zoologist Andrew Krockenberger in a statement.
Still at risk of extinction
The good news, however, does not diminish concern for animals: large gliders are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The situation is even more critical in the face of the ferocity with which, in recent years, seasonal fires have devastated Australia’s forests.
“As a result, there has been a greater focus on understanding the genetic diversity and structure of species to protect their ability to survive and adapt to climate change and its effects,” said ecologist Kara Youngentob, from ANU.
According to her, “if before it was only divided into two subspecies, the existence of three species of large gliders reduces its previous distribution throughout the country, further increasing the concern with the conservation of that animal and highlighting the lack of information about the other species of great glider. We know a lot about one and little about two others “.
The researcher also points out that, at least in the last decade, Australia has registered alarming declines in the populations of the great gliders in their natural habitats, such as the eucalyptus forests of Mossman, in Queensland, and those of Daylesford, in Victoria.