Adaptations of the Galeopterus variegatus

Gliding membranes:

Like all other members of the order Dermoptera the Galeopterus variegatus have a membrane, called a patagium, which surrounds its body to allow it to glide through the air (Brynes et al, 2008). The difference with the Galeopterus is that its membrane extends between the fingers and toes and between the tail and hind limbs; their increased surface area allows for better gliding (Martin, 2008). The Galeopterus variegatus were found to have lower take-off and landing forces than other gliders of the same mass due to large membranes and low body mass (Brynes et al, 2008). Their membranes allow them to glide over 100 meters with little loss in elevation (Burnie et al, 2001). Here is an interesting study done by researchers on the take-off and landing kinetics of the Galeopterus variegatus.

Cryptic Coloration:
Colugo. Image by Medeis
Some organisms use cryptic coloration to blend with their environments to avoid predation. The Galeopterus variegatus and other colugos have fur patterns and coloration to look like lichens on trees to help avoid predation (Burnie et al, 2001). These fur patterns have been naturally selected for and aid in their survival. Check out the interactions page to learn about their predators.

                                                                           Figure 1. Colugo with lichen cryptic coloration.

Digestive System:
Dermoptera teeth
The Galeopterus variegatus are herbivores and feed mainly on leaves, fruits, sap, and flowers (Burnie et al, 2001). To help aid in the digestion of these plants and their cellulose cell walls they developed an enlarged cecum that contains bacteria to aid in digestion (Martin, 2008). They have also developed comb like lower incisor teeth that face forward help them consume food by extracting sap from trees and straining fruits and flowers (Burnie et al, 2001).

Figure 2. Illustration of colugo teeth


In order to cling to the trees that they glide to and from the Galeopterus variegatus’ forelimb claws are curled (Burnie et al, 2001). They also evolved special hind limbs that allow them to easily climb trees. Their feet are webbed, have flattened toes, and discs on the bottom that act essentially as suction cups to the trees (Burnie et al, 2001).

Let’s see what’s on the Galeopterus variegatus’s menu next!