Tlfnews : After last year's disastrous wildfire season there appears some welcome good news has emerged from the forests of Australia's east coast. It comes in the form of two previously unknown species of flying marsupial gliders, soaring through the eucalyptus canopies of Queensland and Victoria.
In a study of yellow bellied glider published in Natures' Scientific Reports journal, scientists discovered that the tree tops are far richer and more diverse than they thought. Geneticists found not one but three separate species of the fluffy flying marsupials.
"Australia's biodiversity just got a lot richer," Professor Andrew Krockenberger, of James Cook University told press. "It's not every day that new mammals are confirmed, let alone two new mammals."
The study was commissioned following widespread wildfires to better understand genetic diversity of the habitat "to protect resilience in the face of climate change." Around 30 percent of the known glider habitat was wiped out by fires this year.
Around the size of a cat, the large-eyed marsupials have the unusual ability of being able to "fly". Using wing-like flaps of skin they can glide long distances of up to 100metres, using their tails to steer.
"They are so unique and it's amazing that we could know so little about such a large attractive animal," professor Brendan Wintle of Melbourne University told the Guardian.
"They are quite secretive and even though they're very large, they'll often be in the bush at the back of people's farms and people would never know they were there."
Australia's flying marsupials are fascinating and their large eyes and fluffy ears have endeared them to people the world over. However according to PETA this has had some unintended consequences.
More common marsupial gliders have become popular 'pets', but their nocturnal nature and need for eucalyptus forests makes them unsuited to domestic life says the animal welfare body.
The group say a black market has emerged for the smaller flying marsupials such as flying Sugar Gliders or "sugar bears".
Last month the American branch of PETA said it had lobbied 1300 retail locations to stop companies "which target impulse buyers by peddling sugar gliders in mall kiosks."