If sugar gliders are deprived of social interaction, they can become so sad that they can die
The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small, omnivorous, arboreal and nocturnal gliding possum belonging to the marsupial infraclass. The common name refers to its preference for sugary nectarous foods and ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel. Due to convergent evolution, they have very similar appearance and habits to the flying squirrel, but are not closely related. The scientific name, Petaurus breviceps, translates from Latin as “short-headed rope-dancer”, a reference to their canopy acrobatics.
The sugar glider is native to eastern and northern mainland Australia, and was introduced to Tasmania. It is also native to various islands in the region.
Sugar gliders are highly social animals. They live in family groups or colonies consisting of up to seven adults, plus the current season’s young which leave as soon as they are able to, all sharing a nest and defending their territory, an example of helping at the nest. They engage in social grooming, which in addition to improving hygiene and health, helps bond the colony and establish group identity.
A dominant adult male will mark his territory and members of the group with saliva and a scent produced by separate glands on the forehead and chest. Intruders who lack the appropriate scent marking are expelled violently. Each colony defends a territory of about 2.5 acres where eucalyptus trees provide a staple food source. Within the colony, typically no fighting takes place beyond threatening behaviour.
They live in social family units in the wild, a trait which makes them inclined to bond well with their human family. However, if they are deprived of social interaction they will not thrive (in fact they can become depressed to the point where they may die).