I want to talk to you all about sugar glider colonies. And i'm not talking about colonies in our homes. I'm referring to colonies in the wild and how it affects our gliders in captivity.
Our sugar gliders that we keep as pets are not domesticated yet. Just because they are born in our homes does not mean that they don't have their wild instincts. They most certainly do still have those wild instincts. It takes over a hundred years to domesticate a wild animal, so we still have a long way to go before they are completely domesticated. Example.... take a paper bag or cellophane and crinkle it in the room with your glider's, you will notice that they immediately wake up and go berserk. Why? Because it sounds
like rustling leaves which can be a danger signal to prey. Or have you noticed that they will instinctively attack a moth or a mouse that gets in their cage? That's because they instinctively know to kill and eat it.
Wild colonies consist of 5-9 sugar glider's and they have a hierarchy of command within the colony.
You have an alpha female and an alpha male that are the top ranking breeding pair and display their dominance over the rest of the colony.
You also have the scouts, hunters, gatherers, builders and babysitters, etc.
The scouts are the lookouts for the safety of the colony. They look for and warn the rest of the colony when danger is near. It doesn't have to refer to just prey animals, it can also be environmental as well as weather conditions. This very well can be true for certain gliders that bark alot in our homes for different reasons.
Hunters,gatherers,builders obviously look for food and material for nest building. I'm not saying that hunting or gathering is their only role within the colony but they are the ones that are the main workers for those tasks. So keep that in mind when you have tail carriers and food aggressive gliders or gliders that tend to do better with sharing their food.
You also have the babysitters to the joeys. They are responsible for the babies while their parents are out and about. The parents make sure the babysitters are well aware of their role. You can see this in our breeding cages where we have more than a pair in that cage. Either it's another female that never has joeys and helps take care of the other females joeys or it's a neutered male that you kept that acts as the babysitter. It can explain why females will kill each others joeys and why males will fight and can kill each other over breeding rights.
Colonies in the wild are generally only peaceful and cohesive for 2-4 years with the average being closer to 2 years. There are rival male sugar gliders that try to take over an established colony or a male Joey born into the colony will try to take over the alpha spot driving the loser out of the colony all together if he isn't killed. This explains why our colonies do well with each other in captivity for a couple of years and then the colony breaks down and begins to fight.
When a male is driven out of a colony (usually within 2 years of age), they are forced to either start their own colony or take over an already established one.
We aren't sure if glider's are born into their roles as in a predetermined genetic order of things or if it is a taught behavior from the parents and the rest of the colony, but either way is pretty cool to think about it and observe the roles that your current glider's display in our cages in our homes.