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New species of a giant flying squirrel discovered in the Far East of Russia

31 October 2019

With membrane span of up to 1.5 metres the extinct animal could glide further than 50 metres.

Just like modern-day giant flying squirrels, their newly-discovered relatives fed on insects, fruit and leaves. Picture: Vokrug Sveta

Discovery of a new species of an extinct giant flying squirrel (lat: Petaurista tetyukhensis) was confirmed by Dr Mikhail Tiunov, of the Far Eastern Institute of Biology and Soil Science. 

Several teeth and a fragment of an upper jaw with two teeth still intact were found during the Summer 2019 excavation work inside the Sukhaya (Dry) cave at the Land of the Leopard Nature Reserve, 144km west of Vladivostok. 

A few more teeth of the same extinct giant flying squirrel were discovered inside the Tetyukhinskaya cave in the north of Primorsky region. 

All bones were dated to approximately 30,000 years ago. 

Giant squirrel's teeth


Giant squirrel's teeth


Giant squirrel's teeth


Giant squirrel's teeth

A few more teeth of the same extinct giant flying squirrel were discovered inside the Tetyukhinskaya cave in the north of Primorsky region. 

This species has not been recorded anywhere else in the world. 

‘Despite the significant amount of paleontological research in the neighbouring China, their specialists didn’t discover bone remains of this giant flying squirrel species’, said professor Tiunov. 

‘It means that either it just wasn’t found there yet, or that it didn’t live there. 

‘Currently the habitat of modern-day giant flying squirrels in South-East Asia look like ‘spots’, like separate isolated areas. 

Professor Mikhail Tiunov

Professor Mikhail Tiunov shows upper jaw on the newly discovered species of a giant flying squirrel.

‘Perhaps this is exactly how they lived in the past, and that the habitat of this particular species was limited by the territory of modern Primorskiy district’, Dr Tiunov explained. 

Just like modern-day giant flying squirrels, their newly-discovered relatives fed on insects, fruit and leaves, even though their bone structure was quite different. 

As Russian scientific team behind the find said the discovery of a new giant flying squirrel species is a rare and important page for world palaeontology. 

The scientific report was published in the Palaeoworld journal.

Comments (1)

Very cool discovery and I look forward to learning more about this historical species. How fun it would be to be able to glide and/or fly like that.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
05/11/2019 18:40
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0
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