All of us love cute and tiny animals. And especially those rare ones that can only be found somewhere on the island. One of the world’s cutest animal is the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel. The adorable Ezo Momonga is a type of flying squirrel unique to Hokkaido island in Japan (northern Japanese island known to be a home to these adorable creatures).
Their huge and dark eyes and little paws are so cute that it has become a local mascot of sorts, appearing on the regional railway's refillable ticket cards. They prefer boreal, evergreen forests, they naturally exist nowhere else on the planet. Flying squirrels, of various species, have inhabited various parts of Asia for around 160 million years. America also has its own flying squirrel.
The Japanese dwarf flying squirrel is an extremely small and fluffy squirrel. It's a native Japanese species and one of the two Old World flying squirrels. This rodent is one of the cutest and most lovable creatures ever known! Despite the common name, this unique squirrel doesn't fly. Instead, it glides with a membrane, stretching from its forelimbs to hind limbs and covered with fur. The Japanese dwarf flying squirrel is known to glide long distances of up to 100 meters at a time, using this ability to move between trees or escape predators. The life expectancy of this animal is unknown, although other flying squirrels typically live 4 – 5 years in the wild and as long as 10 – 15 years in captivity.
Habits and Lifestyle: Japanese flying squirrels are strictly nocturnal creatures that spend their daytime hours in their nests or in tree holes, coming out of their shelters only at dusk. These rodents are silent gliders and move quickly among tops of trees in order to escape potential predators. Japanese flying squirrels are mainly arboreal, rarely descending to the ground. Several individuals of the same sex can share the same tree, except for the mating season, during which they gather in mixed groups.
Japanese flying squirrels do not hibernate and are active throughout the year. However, they are known to occasionally sleep for several days at a time during the winter months. Nothing is known about the communication habits and behavior of this species, although these animals are believed to use vocalizations, including chattering sounds. In addition, newborn young are known share the nests with their mothers, suggesting that mothers and their offspring use certain types of tactile communication.
Distribution: Native and endemic to japan, this rodent inhabits Honshu and Kyushu Islands of the country. The preferred habitat of the Japanese flying squirrel is boreal evergreen forest. Diet and Nutrition: The Japanese flying squirrels are herbivores (frugivores, granivores and lignivores), they generally feed upon nuts, pine seeds, buds, tree bark and fruits, supplementing this diet with occasional insects.
There is no information on reproductive system of these rodents, but a male and a female are known to live together in the same nest. Mating occurs twice a year, usually from May to July. Gestation period lasts about 4 weeks, yielding 2 - 3 young on average, sometimes up to 5 per litter. Newborn squirrels are nursed by their mother for the first 6 weeks of their lives. Females are known to be very attentive to their offspring, grooming and caring for the young. As it comes to males, there is no information whether they participate in parental care.
According to IUCN, the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel is relatively widespread and not so common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List. Due to consuming pine seeds, the Japanese flying squirrel acts as the key seed disperser of this tree within its range, helping pine survive.
Fun Facts for Kids: Japanese dwarf flying squirrels eat in an unusual way, usually hanging upside down a twig or branch when chewing their meal. In this position, they stretch their bodies and reach out to whichever item is accessible, instead of moving around to find food. The specific coloration helps this animal remain unspotted as it sits on a tree. It acts as camouflage, allowing the squirrel merge with tree bark, due to which the animal look like a bump on the bark, confusing predators.
Babies of this species are born with closed eyes and no fur. Internal organs of newborn squirrels are usually visible through the skin. Then, at 1 week old, their skin darkens and fur begins to emerge on it. The flying squirrels are thought to have originated about 18 - 20 million years ago. When the squirrel lands on a tree, the fluffy tail helps the animal balance, acting as an air brake. The flying squirrels are extremely cautious animals. When landing on a tree, they scurry around to the other side of the tree in order to get rid of predators that may have followed them during gliding. As a matter of fact, when creating gliding suits, humans have tried to imitate flying squirrels.