Petauroides volans 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Diprotodontia Pseudocheiridae

Scientific Name: Petauroides volans (Kerr, 1792)
Common Name(s):
English Greater Glider, Greater Gliding Possum
Didelphis volans Kerr, 1792

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bc+3bc+4bc ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-05-27
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J.
Reviewer(s): Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Martin, R., Lunney, D., Menkhorst, P., Oakwood, M., Eyre, T., Goldingay, R., Lindenmayer, D. & Quin, D.
The population of the Greater Glider is declining because of habitat loss, fragmentation, extensive fire, and some forestry practices, and this decline is likely to be exacerbated by climate change (Kearney et al. 2010). The species is particularly susceptible because of slow life history characteristics, specialist requirements for large tree hollows (and hence mature forests), and relatively specialised dietary requirements. Across its broad range, the population size and rate of decline is unknown, but a large-scale monitoring program in the central highlands of Victoria demonstrated a decline of c. 9% per year for the period 1997-2010; and a substantial monitoring program in a conservation reserve in coastal New South Wales reported a complete loss of the monitored subpopulation over the period 2002 to 2010 (Lindenmayer et al. 2011). At woodland sites in central Queensland first sampled in 1973-76 and re-sampled in 2001-02, abundance declined by 89% (Woinarski et al. 2006). There is little other published information on population trends over the period relevant to this assessment (c. 22 years), and these sites are not necessarily representative of trends across the species’ range, but they provide sufficient evidence to suspect that the overall rate of population decline exceeds 30% over a 22 year (=three generation) period.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Greater Glider is endemic to eastern Australia, where it ranges from Windsor Tableland in far northern Queensland to the Wombat Forest in central Victoria. It occurs from sea level up to around 1,200 m a.s.l.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:16000-500000,200000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1000000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


There is no reliable estimate of population size. Lunney et al. (2008) considered that it had a ‘presumed large population’ and was ‘locally common’. Winter et al. (2004) considered it ‘common’ in the north Queensland portion of its range. In New South Wales, Kavanagh (2004) considered it ‘widespread and common … particularly in north-eastern New South Wales’. Density estimates in Victoria range from 0.6 to 2.8 individuals/ha (Henry 1984; van der Ree et al. 2004), and across its broader range from 0.01 to 5 individuals/ha (Kavanagh 1984; Kehl and Borsboom 1984; Maloney 2007). In southern Queensland, trees with hollows are extremely limited in some extensive forest types that have been historically used for timber production, and this in turn limits Greater Glider distribution and abundance (Eyre 2006).

Lunney et al. (2008) stated that the population was decreasing. Maloney (2007) described the loss of one isolated population (at Royal National Park) due to fire, and regional-scale decline (in the Illawarra area).

Lindenmayer et al. (2011) reported results from two substantial monitoring programs, in the central highlands of Victoria and at Jervis Bay. Over the period 1997 to 2010, the Greater Glider declined by an average of 8.8% per year in the central highlands sites (i.e. a rate that if extrapolated over the 22 year period relevant to this assessment is 87%), with higher rates of decline in forests subject to logging than in conservation reserves, and with losses (to 2010) of Greater Gliders at all sites burnt by a major wildfire in 2009. At the Jervis Bay (Booderee National Park) site, the Greater Glider was recorded from 22 of 110 sampled sites in 2002, but has not been recorded at all in repeated surveys at those sites since 2007.

In central Queensland, the abundance of Greater Gliders declined by 89% across a series of 31 woodland sites sampled initially in 1973-76 and then re-sampled in 2001-02 (Woinarski et al. 2006).

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:50000-500000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Greater Glider is an arboreal marsupial, largely restricted to eucalypt forests and woodlands. It is primarily folivorous, with a diet mostly comprising eucalypt leaves, and occasionally flowers (Kehl and Borsboom 1984; Kavanagh and Lambert 1990; van der Ree et al. 2004). Highest abundance is typically in taller, montane, moist eucalypt forests, with relatively old trees and abundant hollows (Andrews et al. 1994; Smith et al. 1994a,b; Kavanagh 2000; Eyre 2004; van der Ree et al. 2004; Vanderduys et al. 2012). The distribution may be patchy even in suitable habitat (Kavanagh 2000). The Greater Glider favours forests with a diversity of eucalypt species, due to seasonal variation in preference for food tree species (Kavanagh 1984).

During the day it shelters in tree hollows, with a particular selection for large hollows in large, old trees (Henry 1984; Kehl and Borsboom 1984; Lindenmayer et al. 1991; Smith et al. 2007; Goldingay 2012). In Grafton/Casino, Urbenville and Urunga/Coffs Harbour Forestry Management Areas (FMAs) in northern New South Wales, the abundance of Greater Gliders on survey sites was significantly greater on sites with a higher abundance of tree hollows (Andrews et al. 1994; Smith et al. 1994a,b). In the Grafton/Casino FMA, the Greater Glider was absent from surveyed sites with fewer than six tree hollows per hectare (Smith et al. 1994a). In southern Queensland, Greater Gliders need at least 2-4 live den trees for every 2 ha of suitable forest habitat (Eyre 2002).

Home ranges are typically relatively small (1-4 ha: Henry 1984; Kehl and Borsboom 1984; Comport et al. 1996; Gibbons and Lindenmayer 2002; Pope et al. 2005), but are larger in lower productivity forests and more open woodlands (to 16 ha: Eyre 2004; Smith et al. 2007), and larger for males than for females (Kavanagh and Wheeler 2004; Pope et al. 2005), with male home ranges being largely non-overlapping (Henry 1984; Kavanagh and Wheeler 2004; Pope et al. 2005).

The Greater Glider is considered to be particularly sensitive to forest clearance (Tyndale-Biscoe and Smith 1969a), and to intensive logging (Kavanagh and Bamkin 1995; Kavanagh and Webb 1998; Kavanagh and Wheeler 2004; Kavanagh et al. 1995), although responses vary according to landscape context and the extent of tree removal and retention (Kavanagh 2000; Taylor et al. 2007). The Greater Glider is also sensitive to wildfire (Lunney 1987; Andrews et al. 1994; Lindenmayer et al. 2011), and slow to recover following major disturbance (Kavanagh 2004). In Urbenville FMA of northern New South Wales, the abundance of Greater Gliders on survey sites was significantly greater in forests that were infrequently burnt (Andrews et al. 1994).

Notwithstanding relatively small home ranges, but in part because of low dispersal ability, Greater Gilders may be sensitive to fragmentation (Eyre 2006; McCarthy and Lindenmayer 1999ab; Lindenmayer et al. 2000; Taylor and Goldingay 2009), have relatively low persistence in small forest fragments, and disperse poorly across vegetation that is not native forest. Modelling suggests that they need native forest patches of at least 160 km2 to maintain viable populations (Eyre 2002).

Females give birth to a single young, from March to June (Tyndale-Biscoe and Smith 1969b; McKay 2008). Sexual maturity is reached in the second year (Tyndale-Biscoe and Smith 1969b). Longevity has been estimated at 15 years (Harris and Maloney 2010), so generation length is 7-8 years. The relatively low reproductive rate (Henry 1984) may render small isolated populations in small remnants prone to extinction (van der Ree 2004; Pope et al. 2005).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):7-8
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Land clearing for agriculture, logging, and bushfires adversely affects this species throughout its range, with these threats exacerbated because of need for large trees with hollows and very limited dispersal. Modelling indicates severe range contraction for northern subspecies (Kearney et al. 2010)

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

The Greater Glider occurs in many conservation reserves across its extensive range. In production forests, some logging prescriptions have been imposed to reduce impacts upon this species.

Citation: Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Petauroides volans. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T40579A21963210. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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