Ecology of the savanna glider (Petaurus ariel) in tropical northern Australia

  • Alyson Stobo-Wilson

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Widespread declines of a small, arboreal mammals in the drier regions of northern Australia are of global concern. These declines have been variously attributed to either disruption of resource availability or increased predation pressure from invasive species. The aims of my study were to identify the factors that influence the distribution, abundance and ecology of an arboreal marsupial, the savanna glider (Petaurus ariel) in the tropical savannas of northern Australia; including whether this species is in decline. My study forms the first targeted ecological research on this species, which was formerly considered a subspecies of the sugar glider, P. breviceps.

    My research reveals significant variation in the abundance and ecology of P. ariel across its geographic range within the tropical savannas. I found that the dramatic north–south climatic gradient within northern Australia has an overarching influence on the distribution, abundance, density, home range size and fine-scale habitat use of P. ariel. Interestingly, I found a 50% increase in P. ariel body mass and a ten-fold increase in P. ariel home range size in areas of low resource availability. The variable ecology of P. ariel has enabled the species to adapt to varied environmental conditions, including areas of naturally low resource availability at the southern edge of the species’ distribution. Importantly, my research shows evidence of a 35% decline in the geographic distribution of P. ariel, primarily in the southern end of its geographic range; emphasising the need to understand fundamental aspects of the species’ ecology for future conservation efforts.

    Overall, my findings highlight the influence of variation in resource availability on an arboreal marsupial in the tropical savannas of northern Australia. My thesis contributes to our understanding of the drivers of the ecology of this, and other, arboreal mammal species inhabiting the region, and helps explain underlying patterns of decline.
    Date of AwardNov 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTeigan Cremona (Supervisor), Brett Murphy (Supervisor) & Sue Carthew (Supervisor)

    Cite this