Skip to main content

New Species Discovered: Humboldt Flying Squirrel

It’s estimated that about 150 species go extinct per day, so it is always exciting news when a new species is discovered! This spring, we learned about a new mammal found in the coastal redwood range called Humboldt’s flying squirrel.

Humboldt's flying squirrel. Photo by Nick Kerhoulas
Humboldt’s flying squirrel. Photo by Nick Kerhoulas
This is the third species of flying squirrel found in North America, and it was named after famed naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt. Von Humboldt is known for cataloging the new and exotic species he encountered during his travels through the Americas between 1799 and 1804. Over 200 years later, Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis), was classified by a team of researchers out of the University of North Carolina lead by mammologist Brian Arbogast.

Prior to the discovery of this new species, scientists believed that there were two species of flying squirrels living in North America, the Southern flying squirrel and the Northern flying squirrel. The Southern flying squirrel’s range extends through much of the Eastern United States, stretching down through Mexico and as far south as Honduras. The Northern flying squirrel’s range was originally thought to be California, Oregon, Washington, and much of Canada. However, when Arbogast first encountered a preserved specimen of the Northern flying squirrel from California and the Pacific Northwest, he noticed that they were smaller than the individuals found in Canada. Arbogast was able to use genetic testing to determine that the smaller flying squirrels in the western states are genetically different from the Northern flying squirrels. Thus, Arbogast and his team were able to classify this western flying squirrel as a new species.

The flying squirrel’s unique anatomy makes them perfect for cruising through the redwood canopy. They use a membrane between their arms and legs, called their patagium, to glide from tree to tree. Using their bushy tail, they are able to steer, break, and slow down to arrive at the tree they are aiming for. A nocturnal animal, the flying squirrel glides through the forest, foraging for fruit, seeds, flowers, insects, snails, bird’s eggs, and tree sap. They also glide from tree to tree to avoid predators like owls. These elusive creatures are not easy to find when visiting redwood parks during the day because they sleep in lichen-lined holes in the trees. When camping in the forest at night, listen for the sound of these little mammals, gliding through the canopy.

For more stories on wildlife in the redwoods, check out these posts on the League’s Giant Thoughts blog.


Tags: , , ,


About Sonia Morris

Sonia spent her summers in college interning for the League before joining as Conservation Programs Assistant in 2016. She brings with her an extensive knowledge of the fish and invertebrates of the Bay Area.



Mariposa Grove. Photo by jenkinson2455, Flickr Creative Commons

Happy Birthday Mariposa Grove!

on

Today marks the 153rd birthday of the spectacular giant sequoia grove in Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Grove. The protection of Mariposa helped inspire a movement of conservation at a time when sequoia were being cut, leading to the protection of the biggest trees in the world.


How to Find Awesome Dog-Friendly Redwood Hikes

on

For many of us, dogs are treated less like pets and more like family. It only feels natural to bring our dogs—with their cute, wagging tails and unbounded enthusiasm—along with us as we explore the redwoods this summer. If you need suggestions on where to go, consider these delightful and dog-friendly redwood hikes.


Leave a Reply

Top