Galeopterus variegatesSunda flying lemur(Also: Malayan flying lemur)

Geographic Range

Sunda flying lemurs are found in Southeast Asia and are endemic to Indochina and Sundaland, an area which includes the Malay Peninsula and the surrounding islands. ("America Zoo", 2005; Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Shapiro, 2010)


Sunda flying lemurs are strictly arboreal, spending their entire lives in the treetops of tropical rainforests. They can also be found in highlands and can readily adapt to disturbed forests edges and plantations. ("America Zoo", 2005; "Malayan Colugo Cynocephalus variegatus", 2007; Burnie and Wilson, 2001)

Physical Description

Sunda flying lemurs have small heads, large and forward-facing eyes, wide brows, and small ears. They have blunt snouts, and there are no obvious whiskers on their faces. The fur of Sunda flying lemurs is dense and mottled. While the underside is pale, the dorsal fur can be white, gray, black, or red. Unlike Philippine flying lemurs, Sunda flying lemurs have bold patches of color that look similar to lichen on a tree, which aid in camouflage. While Sunda flying lemurs cannot fly, a membrane of skin called a patagium allows them to glide. This membrane is fully furred, extending along the limbs from the neck to the fingers, toes and tail. When gliding, the patagium can extend to about 70 cm with the help of an extensor muscle in the flank membrane. Sunda flying lemurs have four legs of similar size with webbed feet and curled claws. Their digits are flattened, and the soles of the feet can form sucking discs to allow a better grip while climbing. Sunda flying lemurs weigh 0.9 to 2 kg (2 to 4.5 lbs) and are 33 to 42 cm in length with 17.5 to 27 cm tails. ("America Zoo", 2005; Allaby, 1999; Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Darwin and Beer, 1996; Shapiro, 2010)

Sunda flying lemurs have 34 carnivore-like teeth. Flying lemurs of the family Cynocephalidae have unique comb-shaped bottom incisors, which can be used for straining or grooming. These incisors include up to up to 20 prongs per tooth. While most incisors of mammals are single rooted, the second incisors of Sunda flying lemurs are double rooted. The front of the top jaw is toothless as the upper incisors are positioned at the sides of the jaw. The canines of Sunda flying lemurs resemble pre-molars. ("America Zoo", 2005; Allaby, 1999; Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Darwin and Beer, 1996)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    0.9 to 2 kg
    1.98 to 4.41 lb
  • Range length
    50.5 to 69 cm
    19.88 to 27.17 in
  • Average wingspan
    70 cm
    27.56 in


Little is known about the reproductive systems and courtships of Sunda flying lemurs.

Sunda flying lemurs can mate throughout the year. After a gestation period of about 60 days, female Sunda flying lemurs give birth to a single offspring. Rarely, twins can be born. The offspring is born underdeveloped and weighs around 35 g. Weaning occurs at six months of age, and adulthood is reached at about three years. The mother can mate again shortly after giving birth, and it is possible for a female to be pregnant while still nursing. ("America Zoo", 2005; Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Linzey, 2007; Martin, 2004)

  • Breeding season
    Mating of Sunda flying lemurs occurs throughout the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    60 days
  • Average weaning age
    6 months
  • Average time to independence
    3 years

Offspring of Sunda flying lemurs nurse from a single pair of mammae located near the mother's armpits. The mother can fold her patagium into a pouch to protect and warm her offspring. Young Sunda flying lemurs are dependent on the mother until they are weaned. Offspring cling to the underside of the mother, if not in the pouch, even when she is gliding from tree to tree. (Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Linzey, 2007; Martin, 2004)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Little information is available on the lifespan of Sunda flying lemurs, but the oldest known captive flying lemur of the family Cynocephalidae was 17.5 years old. ("Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research", 2002)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    17.5 (high) years


Sunda flying lemurs are mainly nocturnal. During the day, they sleep in holes in trees or high in the dense foliage of the treetops. They grasp the underside of branches or the trunk of a tree with all four feet. Climbing trees involves stretching out the two front legs then bringing up the two back legs, giving an awkward, hopping appearance. When threatened, this species either climbs higher into the trees or completely stops moving. Sunda flying lemurs are strictly arboreal and are quite helpless on the forest floor. They are able to glide over 100 m with little loss in elevation. Sunda flying lemurs live alone or in small, loosely connected groups. However, they can be territorial of sleeping and foraging areas. ("America Zoo", 2005; "Malayan Colugo Cynocephalus variegatus", 2007; Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Linzey, 2007; Shapiro, 2010)

Home Range

Not much is known regarding the home ranges of Sunda flying lemurs, although home ranges broadly overlap. In the protected forests of Singapore, one Sunda flying lemur is estimated per two hectares. (Linzey, 2007; Shapiro, 2010)

Communication and Perception

As most Sunda flying lemurs are solitary, little is known about communication between individuals. They can be territorial of sleeping and foraging areas, though information regarding territorial behavior is limited. ("America Zoo", 2005; Burnie and Wilson, 2001; Linzey, 2007)

Food Habits

Sunda flying lemurs are strictly herbivorous. They feed on soft plant parts such as fruits, flowers, buds, young leaves, nectar, and sap. The unusually comb-shaped lower incisors are thought to be used to scrape up sap from trees or to strain fruits and flowers. ("Malayan Colugo Cynocephalus variegatus", 2007; Burnie and Wilson, 2001)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers
  • sap or other plant fluids


Humans are among the few known predators of Sunda flying lemurs. If threatened, these animals either freeze or climb higher into the trees. Bold patches of fur that look similar lichen provide camouflage against predators. Sunda flying lemurs also glide away to escape predators, gliding up to up to 100 m with minimal loss in altitude. ("Malayan Colugo Cynocephalus variegatus", 2007; Burnie and Wilson, 2001)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

As Sunda flying lemurs consume fruit and flowers, they may aid in seed dispersal as well as flower pollination. (Burnie and Wilson, 2001)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Sunda flying lemurs are occasionally hunted for their meat and skin. As the closest living relatives to primates, the genome of Sunda flying lemurs could prove evolutionarily enlightening. (Kennedy, 2002)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because Sunda flying lemurs adapt well to disturbed and fragmented forests and plantations, they are considered as pests for fruit crops. ("Malayan Colugo Cynocephalus variegatus", 2007)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Although Sunda flying lemurs are fairly adaptive to disturbed forests, their numbers have been decreasing due to habitat loss from logging and the conversion of native forests into farm land. Nonetheless, Sunda flying lemurs are considered at low risk of extinction by the IUCN Red List. (Burnie and Wilson, 2001)

Other Comments

Sunda flying lemurs are also known as Malayan flying lemurs, as they inhabit both Malaysia and the Malay Peninsula. Sunda flying lemurs have previously been classified as and/or linked to insectivores, bats, and primates. This species is difficult to breed and sustain in captivity. Few formal studies have been conducted on Sunda flying lemurs, and there is much yet to learn. (Martin, 2004)


Katrina Beatson (author), Northern Michigan University, John Bruggink (editor), Northern Michigan University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2005. "America Zoo" (On-line). Accessed February 03, 2009 at

2007. "Malayan Colugo Cynocephalus variegatus" (On-line). Wildlife Singapore. Accessed February 23, 2009 at

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. 2002. "Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research" (On-line). Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish. Accessed March 02, 2009 at

Allaby, M. 1999. A Dictionary of Zoology. Oxford: New York Oxford University Press (UK).

Burnie, D., D. Wilson. 2001. Smithsonian Institution Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. New York, New York: DK Publishing, Inc.

Darwin, C., G. Beer. 1996. The Origin of Species. Oxford: New York Oxford University Press (UK).

Kennedy, B. 2002. "Penn State Live" (On-line). Accessed March 02, 2009 at

Linzey, D. 2007. Dermoptera. Pp. 390-391 in McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Vol. 5, 10 Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Martin, R. 2004. Dermoptera (Colugos). Pp. 299-305 in E Hutchins, D Thoney, M McDade, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, 2 Edition. Detroit: Gale.

Shapiro, L. 2010. "Galeopterus variegatus (Audebert, 1799)" (On-line). Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed January 18, 2011 at