New species of giant flying squirrel found in China

Though not actually as big as the name sounds, this cool mammal is still a big deal
giant flying squirrel Meet the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel, a rare and exciting find from China. (Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden)

A new species of giant flying squirrel has been discovered in China, adding an important specimen to one of the world's rarest genera, or groups, of mammals. At around 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds), it may not actually be giant. But it could still have a massive impact on what scientists know about these curious herbivores.

What does it mean to be a rare tree-living mammal?

The Most Wanted list

The Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel is a part of the ultra-mysterious genus Biswamoyopterus (say BIZ-wahm-oi-OP-tehr-us). The only other two species in this genus? The Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi) and the Laotian giant flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus laoensis). It sounds great to know that this new squirrel has some company... until you find out all of the details.

Both the Namdapha and Laotian squirrels have only been seen once! (One Namdapha was found in 1981 in India and one Laotian was discovered in Laos in 2013.) In fact, the Namdapha flying squirrel is on Global Wildlife Conversation list of 25 Most Wanted animals to be rediscovered by science. (One of the animals on this list was actually recently found: Wallace's giant bee!)

New hope

giant flying squirrel

A look at the camp used by scientists as they researched this rare mammal. (Quan Li)

All of this backstory makes the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel an extra exciting find. True, this new squirrel is also quite rare. But researchers are optimistic that they'll finally be able to study and understand this animal in groups and in its own habitat. Why?

Well, for one... they found more than one of them! Over the course of their research, the team of scientists behind this study observed several squirrels. The team is also getting funding from the Chinese government to continue their work. And the more work they do, the easier it will be to get official protection for the animal.

So is this the moment where the giant flying squirrel gets its due? We hope so — these critters are pretty cool!

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