Monday, November 22, 2010

Creature Feature: Colugo.

If you look around the world, you can find some pretty darn weird vampires. Some of the weirdest bloodsuckers come from Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, and other bizarre places with just as bizarre fauna. Seriously, Malaysia has some twisted bloodsuckers that are both WTF and terrifying at the same time.

That said, I could have sworn there was an Asian vampire of some sort based off of this:


No, that is not a bat or a lemur. The colugo is a category unto itself. There is still debate over whether these things are closer to primates or bats. There are only two species of colugo in the family Cynocephalidae (literally "dog-headed"), and they are both native to Southeast Asia.

Colugos are the most airworthy of all gliding mammals. Not only do they have skin between their hind and forelimbs, but the flap extends all the way to the tip of the tail, and their digits are webbed as well. Such a stretch of skin allows them to glide up to 70 meters (230 feet) with a minimal loss of height. This arrangement does, however, make them clumsy climbers.

They also look sort of like the bastard children of a frog and a squirrel, but let's not go there.

Colugos have a number of other, odder traits. Their babies are born almost like marsupial babies; there is a bunch of crazy stuff about their dentition that makes mammal fanboys go nuts (their incisors have two root canals and a bunch of 'combed' ridges); they have camouflage that puts some moths to shame. The list goes on; no wonder these creatures have a category all their own.

Alas, because colugos are rare, nocturnal creatures, we do not know that much about them. They are threatened by habitat loss. As a creature highly adapted to gliding from tree to tree, if the Asian forests die, so will a valuable piece of evolutionary history.

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