Oct 12, 2008

Flying Monkeys

Bats belong to the order of Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing". But did you know that there is also an order by the name of Dermoptera, "skin-wing"? (Think of the suffix "opter" and you'll get a clue as to how the helicopter was named). There are only two critters in this little order. Here's one of them.

The Homely Halls of Ugly Overload would like to welcome the Colugo. Morgan, who is studying biology in Paris on a level that would make my head spin, informed me (and by extension, you) that recent molecular tests have shown the colugo to be the next of kin to primates, which bumps the shrews and their ilk to third place.

Photo source: memenest.com

colugo is a native of Malaysia, and is also known as the Malaysian flying lemur. But, much like Voltaire's assertion that the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, the Malaysian flying lemur is neither flying nor a lemur (though it is Malaysian). These arboreal mammals, which are about the size of a house cat, have flaps of skin along their sides that allow them to glide, some times as far as 200 feet. These flaps of skin are how the colugo earned its way into the exclusive club of Dermoptera (the only other member is a resident of the Phillipines).

The colugo is the closest thing we have to the dreaded flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz fame (oh, the nightmares those things gave me as a youth). But fear not, these creatures are awkward fliers, awkward climbers, and awkward crawlers, and they only eat leaves, shoots, and fruit. That being said, I'm sure some creative witch could put them to some nefarious use, so don't rest too easy.

Thanks for the skin-wing, Morgan.

Photo source: memenest.com


Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert on Greek roots, but I think it's better to consider -pter as the morpheme rather than -opter, which might get you thinking more about words like "optics" or "diopter" (both having to do with vision rather than wings). Accordingly, helico-pter, ptero-dactyl, Chiro-ptera, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Aw, he's cute!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of our Sugar Gliders. They look simular. (Just substract the demon eyes and replace with sweet beady little black ones). Our sugar Gliders however are a light grey color with black stripes from nose to tail. They also are only about the size of your hand. However, they are quite sweet creatures and they as well have 'skin-wings'. The main difference is the fact that they are Marsupials, not mammals. Their diets also differ. Gliders can eat leaves and fruits, but a good portion of their diet also comes from sap. They just chew the stuff up to get all the yumminess out and then spit out the stuff they don't want (mainly the fibers from the fruit).

I imagine this thing would make a great pet, just as long as you kept it from seeing wherever you slept. And had some sturdy locks on it's home.

Thanks for this unique animal Morgan and RW.

Raging Wombat said...

HorsePunchKid -- actually, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the correction (I love etymology!).

Anonymous said...

It's so not ugly!!! I want one.

Unknown said...

I think the colugo is adorable; I wouldn't be surprised if the first photo appeared on Cute Overload. The second photo just has unflattering lighting and redeye that could make any subject look ugly.

Anonymous said...

The bug eye thing is a little odd, but the rest of it is pretty cute! If I saw one of these things hanging on a tree over my head, first reaction would be 'omgwtf?!' and flailing, and then I'd have to stop and see how cute it was.

Nonexistant Black Feather said...

erm, Shane, marsupials *are* mammals.