Australian researchers have identified two new mammals in the Land Down Under — both cousins of the doe-eyed flying marsupials known as greater gliders, according to a report.
A study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal found two new distinct and smaller species of gliders in northern and central Australia, outside of the marsupial’s known habitat in the country’s southern end, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Australia’s biodiversity just got a lot richer,” Andrew Krockenberger, a professor at James Cook University and a co-author of the study, told the outlet. “It’s not every day that new mammals are confirmed, let alone two new mammals.”
The already-known southern glider, which is about the size of a common possum, sleeps in hollowed-out trees in the forests of Victoria and New South Wales during the day and sets out at night in search of eucalyptus leaves — sometimes soaring up to 330 feet through the air.
In recent years, it has been classified as an at-risk species, with its population declining by as much as 80 percent over the past two decades due to logging, global warming and the encroachment of urban development, the Herald said.
Now there are three species to look after, the researchers said.
The newly discovered northern species, which lives in the eucalyptus forests between Mackay and Cairns in Queensland, is the smallest of the glider clan, growing to the size of a little ringtail possum, which is up to about a foot long.
That’s compared to the southern glider, which can grow to nearly 2 feet.
The newly found central species lives in southern Queensland up to Mackay and is between the two others in size.
“It’s really exciting to find this biodiversity under our noses, and gliders are such a charismatic animal as well,” Australian National University ecologist Kara Youngentob told the Herald.
“But the division of the greater glider into multiple species reduces the previous widespread distribution of the original species, further increasing conservation concern for that animal and highlighting the lack of information about the other greater glider species,” Youngentob said.