Have you ever met a sugar glider? If you’re ever in a eucalyptus forest in Australia, chances are you will probably see them gliding around from tree to tree in search of sweet nectar.

These small mammals are marsupials, like kangaroos. However, their bodies are more squirrel-like than kangaroo-like.

They get their name from the fact that they do like their sweets. Although they will eat a variety of things, including insects and vegetables, they prefer nectar in the form of the sweet sap of eucalyptus, acacia and other trees.

As for the “glider” part of their name, they are able to glide from tree to tree with the help of a special membrane — called the patagium — that extends from their fingers along the sides of their bodies to their toes, like webbing. They glide in much the same way that so-called flying squirrels glide from tree to tree.

Although it may look like they’re flying, sugar gliders don’t have wings and can’t fly from the ground up into a tree. Instead, they leap from a higher position to a lower position and use their arms, legs, special membrane and tail to glide along the air for distances of up to 150 feet! Their webbed membrane acts sort of like a parachute to slow their fall.

Sugar gliders are nocturnal. This means they sleep during the day and actively hunt for food at night. When the weather is cold or food is scarce, sugar gliders will reduce their activity by entering an emergency resting phase called torpor. During torpor, they may sleep up to 23 hours a day.

Sugar gliders are considered exotic animals, but they have become popular pets in some areas. Most states allow people to keep sugar gliders as pets. However, there are a few states — California, Hawaii, Alaska, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts — that either do not allow sugar gliders to be kept as pets or regulate their existence.

Before you rush out to your nearest exotic pet store to buy a sugar glider, you might want to consider how much work it can be to own one. For example, sugar gliders take time — sometimes several months — to bond with their owners. In the process, they’ve been known to bite, which can be a danger to younger children.

Sugar gliders also have special dietary needs. You can’t just buy a bag of “sugar glider food” at the store. Most sugar gliders need fresh foods prepared daily, including fruits, vegetables and insects.

Since they’re nocturnal, sugar gliders can be difficult to incorporate into a household. Your noise during the day can keep a sugar glider from getting its rest. Likewise, the sugar glider’s nighttime activities can keep you awake!

Like any exotic animal, sugar gliders can be great pets if you’re up to the task. Just do your research and make sure you fully understand what it will mean to own and care for a sugar glider before you invite one into your family!

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    • They are pretty cute and cool, too, Lizzy! We like your connection to hamsters, pigs and squirrels– you’ve got a good eye! Nice work, Wonder Friend! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your kind comment, Anna! We like to learn new things, especially with great Wonder Friends like YOU! Have a super day, Wonder Friend Anna! :)

    • Wow, what a cool thing, Tyeeee! We bet it’s fun to visit that friend and check out all their sugar gliders! We are glad you shared how soft they are– they look very cool! Thanks for joining the fun at Wonderopolis today! :)

  1. While I was reading the article I went to google and saw if there were some exotic pet shops in my area the sold sugar gliders. And it turns out there was for $200 dollars (and that was only for the gray ones). But I decided to do more research and try to earn up to $200 dollars by the time I’m 13 yrs old. Cool dream right?

    • Hi there, Naya, we’re so proud that you have been researching on your own! We hope you’ll talk to an adult or a parent about your research and share what you’ve found about sugar gliders online, too! We think it’s a great idea to start saving for something well in advance; it will give you time to think about why you’re saving and to plan for a new pet. Thanks for sharing your dream with us, Naya! :)

  2. Ha ha ha. Why would an animal taste sweet? They’re fluffy, full of bones and tissue.
    OK I know that’s not what the wonder is about but I thought that was funny.
    :)

    • You make a good point, Tyler J! We haven’t tasted a sugar glider, but we know they have a bit of a sweet tooth! Thanks for sharing your comment, Wonder Friend! Have a wacky and WONDERful Wednesday! :)

  3. I love Sugar Gliders, they are adorable little buggers, I wish I owned one, I am an animal lover, so I wish I owned all animals. :P

    • We have so many awesome Wonders about animals, Zenobia! We are so happy that you shared your comment with us about sugar gliders! They are pretty great to Wonder about! :)

  4. I really like sugar gliders. They really sound like a cool and cute pet. But I never thought they could be that aggressive.

  5. I own 4 Sugar Gliders and even though it does take a while to bond with them, it is totally worth it. Sometimes one of them will sit on my head when I am doing my homework! They can be very sweet but sometimes, they are very aggressive. They are soooooooooooo adorable though!!!! ☺

    • Wow, thanks for sharing your comment, Brianna! Your sugar gliders sound really cool- we bet they enjoy spending time with you! We think it’s funny that some like to sit on your head! :)

  6. Sugar gliders are so cute because they jump on your head and do cute things.
    Wonderopolis do you think that sugar gliders are cute?
    Bye bye

    • Thanks for sharing your question, Genevieve V.! The reasons probably vary from state to state, but one likely reason is that sugar gliders are not native species to the United States. This is important, because if sugar gliders escape from homes, they could cause disruption to the local ecosystem. Our Wonder of the Day #909 What Is Kudzu? explains why introducing non-native species to an ecosystem can be troublesome (and possibly detrimental) to local species of that region. We hope you’ll check it out! Thank you for WONDERing with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How sweet are sugar gliders?
  • Can sugar gliders fly?
  • Do sugar gliders make good pets?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Have you ever wanted an exotic pet? If so, a sugar glider may be for you. After reading through today’s Wonder of the Day, what do you think? Do you think a sugar glider would make a good pet for you? Why or why not?

If not, what exotic animal might you like to have as a pet? Let your imagination run wild. Take some time to think about what it would be like to live at home with a kangaroo, a zebra, a giraffe, a platypus or a penguin.

What adventures — or misadventures — might you have together? What would be your biggest challenge? Where would the creature sleep? In your bed? On the couch?

Write a short story about what it might be like to live with an exotic animal. When you’re finished, post your story to Facebook to share with your Wonder Friends. We can’t wait to read your story!

Still Wondering

Use National Geographic Education’s Pterosaur Glider Experiment to challenge children to alter gliders in controlled experiments, testing the variables of head or crest shapes.

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