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British Museum holds clues to glider mystery

By Katie Weiss

The crowdfunding campaign will help CDU researchers discover more about the northern savanna glider The crowdfunding campaign will help CDU researchers discover more about the northern savanna glider

Researchers plan to travel to the United Kingdom to help solve the mystery of an unknown glider species of Northern Australia with support from a crowdfunding campaign that ends this month.

The Charles Darwin University researchers intend to view the original specimen of Northern Australia’s gliding marsupial at the British Natural History Museum.

The specimen was collected in 1842 and will help determine whether the glider, which the researchers are currently calling a "northern savanna glider", is a new species of gliding marsupial.

Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment Professor Sue Carthew said a crowdfunding campaign was created in response to the wave of community interest the project had received.

Professor Carthew said the species was currently classified as a sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps ariel), but its DNA and physical characteristics suggested it was more closely related to squirrel and mahogany gliders from eastern Australia.

“Understanding what species we have is imperative so we can manage and conserve it in the face of increasing threats,” Professor Carthew said.

“Now the public has a way to further support this research through crowdfunding.”

Funds raised from the campaign will support the researchers to travel to remote locations across Northern Australia to find out where these animals inhabit. The funds will also be used to obtain radio-collars to study the animals in the wild.

“Even though this gliding marsupial looks to be broadly distributed across Northern Australia, it’s a species we know remarkably little about,” Professor Carthew said.

The researchers will also travel to museums across Australia to collect tissue samples and take morphological measurements from glider specimens, which they will then compare to their northern counterparts. This meticulous work is required to formally classify a new species.

Professor Carthew is project leader of the research team, which includes CDU Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods research associate Dr Teigan Cremona and PhD candidate Alyson Stobo-Wilson.

The Pozible crowdfunding campaign closes on 18 December. To donate, or for more information about the campaign, “The unknown glider”, visit W: