Japanese Dwarf Flying Squirrel: The Cutest Rodent on Earth?

Japanese dwarf flying squirrel
Thanks to Pop Shiretoko for the image.

After the relative success of our frogmouth post last week, we’re taking a look around at obscure species to promote the diversity of life on this here planet.

The Japanese dwarf flying squirrel soon got our attention. We love rodents and this cute little bastard is ideally suited to the kawaii (cuteness) culture of Nippon. Thusly, let’s squee and take a closer look.

Japanese Dwarf Flying Squirrel

Pteromys momonga (ニホンモモンガ) is an Old World flying squirrel – there are two species of these bad boys. They live across the Honshu and Kyushu islands in, as you’d expect, pretty lush forest environments.

They’re pretty wee. Hence the name. They grow to about 20 cm in length.

That’s super cute and everything, but these things can also bloody fly – or at least master the ability to fall in considerable style.

They have their flying ability due to a membrane of flesh around the wrists and ankles – that makes up a type of jumpsuit deal.

In a moment of bravery, they’ll launch themselves off a tree and go for a bit of a mid-air saunter.

So it’s a common sight to see the diminutive beasts soaring amongst the trees (between bouts of nibbling on seeds).

They’re primarily herbivores and it’s common to observe them hanging upside down from a branch to enjoy a snack.

With their giant bulging eyes and wee status, they seem ideally suited to Japan and its fixation with manga and anime.

But they are, of course, adept at dealing with their environment. They can actually glide some 160 metres (524 feet) and are extremely dextrous, enabling them to escape predators in a flash.

As with many rodents, they’re shy around humans. And you’re only going to get sight of one if you head out into the woods of Japan.

In the meantime, you can at least enjoy observing the more traditional squirrel species in your neighbourhood, eh?

Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel

Right, so we did mention there are two species with this lot. The other is a giant bastard version of the dwarf variety. Seems logical enough.

At 70 feet in height (okay, that’s a lie – they’re about 50cm) they’re a wee bit bigger than their dwarf cousins.

And, again, they’re native to the same island habitats such as Kyushu in southern Japan. That’s not too far from the below clip.

Yakushima is an island that went on to inspire Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece Princess Mononoke. It’s the setting for the kodama – pallid tree spirits – who romp about in the nude with odd expressions.

But it’s nice the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel has a lush home to romp around in, non? As they’re proper awesome little critters.

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