Tag Archives: patagium

The Batman of Our Forests: The Malayan Colugo

What is it: Huh? Colugo? Simi lai eh?? (translation: what on earth is that?). Well, given its elusive nature and well camouflaged body, it is not surprising that these creatures are not commonly spotted by visitors to our nature parks. Colugos are arboreal (meaning tree dwelling) gliding creatures belonging to the order dermoptera and family cynocephalidae, of which there are 2 extant and 2 extinct species [1]. The species we have in Singapore is the Malayan Colugo or, if you are feeling particularly intellectual, you can tell your friends that you have seen a Galeopterus variegates!

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Cute colugo!

How does it look like: Given that a picture  paints a thousand words, let’s look at a picture of one. We can see that the Malayan colugo has fur that is mottled grey (2) or brown that is sometimes tinged with green. It is this abstract pattern that allows it to blend in so well with the canopy, making it difficult to spot.

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Picture from pintrest.com

Additionally, it has two large, forward facing eyes bestowing it with fantastic binocular vision [1]. This could be what allows it to judge distances accurately when gliding from tree to tree. Complete with its small cupped ears, its face is certainly one that is very cute indeed! However, its party trick are its huge membranes (scientifically known as patagium) that  extend from limb to limb, even in between its digits in order to give it as large a surface area as possible [1]. Just like Batman’s cape, these membranes allow it to glide amongst the canopy, hence giving rise to its other common name, which is the flying lemur. Here’s a picture of its pretty insane looking patagium in action!

What does it eat: The diet of the Malayan Colugo consists mainly of leaves, flowers and young shoots along with some insects [3]. It even consumes durian flowers which might not seem like good news for those durian lovers out there! However, it also performs crucial ecological functions such as seed dispersal [1] so it’s a pretty important member of the forest as well!

Where can you find it: The Malayan Colugo is mainly found in nature reserves such as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) as well as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR). Outside of nature reserves, parks such as Bukit Batok park also harbour some populations [4]. I have also personally seen a few at Hindhede nature park (which is next to the BTNR) as well as on trees growing next to the golf courses of the Singapore Island Country Club.

Other interesting trivia: Did you know that the Malayan Colugo can glide up to 100m [3] while losing only 10m in elevation? Also, having lived in trees all its life, you might think that the colugo would be an adept climber but it is far from it! It uses a clumsy hopping motion [3] to move up and down trees which is not exactly the most elegant method of locomotion. Lastly, the colugo rarely ever ventures to the ground, not even to defecate! Here’s a picture of it defecating from a tree!

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Picture from curioussengi.wordpress.com

As you can see, it has to lift its tail and wrap the membrane over its body just to take a poop. Looks really weird doesn’t it! Attached below is a fascinating video on how the colugo hops up trees and glides. Enjoy!

Well, that’s all from me today. I hope that this post has given you folks a better understanding of the colugo, which is just one of the many interesting creatures inhabiting our forests. Until next time!

Written by: Noel

References:

  1. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Colugo
  2. https://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/mammals/colugo.htm
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunda_flying_lemur
  4. https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/fauna/4/7/478