Meet the world’s smallest gliding mammal

Wednesday 1 February, 2023
The Narrow-toed Feather-tailed Glider is featured as part of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority’s Grey Box Grassy Woodlands wildlife awareness campaign, supported by the Goulburn Broken CMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

The Narrow-toed Feather-tailed Glider ( (Acrobates pygmaeus) is the world’s smallest gliding mammal, weighing in at an average of just 12 grams. It’s distinguishable from other small marsupial species by its 7-8-centimetre-long flat, feathery tail which acts as a rudder to manoeuvre through the treetops. 

Goulburn Broken CMA Project Officer, Janice Mentiplay-Smith, said this tiny glider used its long, brush-like tongue to feed on grains of pollen, small insects and drops of nectar.

“As a nocturnal marsupial, it spends its nights busily searching for food, gliding 20 or more metres between trees. Narrow-toed Feather-tailed Glider toes contain ‘suction cups’ that enable it to climb almost any surface, including vertical panes of glass,” Ms Mentiplay-Smith said.

“This glider lives in communal nests of up to 30 individuals for warmth, safety and probably convenience. Females typically give birth to two litters of up to four young in a season. If she conceives a second litter before the first litter is weaned, the second litter enters ‘embryonic diapause’, meaning the embryos remain static and do not develop until the female is able to fully commit her energy to gestation.”

Like many of our small mammals, this tiny glider can enter a state of torpor (a form of short-term ‘hibernation’) when the temperature cools or when food becomes scarce, by slowing its breathing and heart rate to conserve precious energy. 

“Unlike a true hibernation, torpor only lasts for short periods. As this little glider is unresponsive during torpor, it’s at greater risk of predation,” Ms Mentiplay-Smith said.

“We often think of foxes being the “baddie” when it comes to the survival of native wildlife, but domestic cats are just as much of a culprit – if not worse. It is important to keep your cat confined at night, as these introduced predators easily prey upon the unsuspecting and vulnerable glider and will decimate populations in an area so successfully, that they become locally extinct in just one generation.”

Read more about the Narrow-toed Feather-tailed Glider and the 29 other mammal species present in the Goulburn Broken catchment’s Grey Box Grassy Woodlands environment in ‘The Mammal Book’, a 58-page booklet featuring beautiful photographs and informative text. 

To view,  The Mammal Book - GB CMA - Goulburn Broken CMA

The Narrow-toed Feather-tailed Glider. Photo D Pendavingh.