If you focus on the blur flittering amidst the trees in Australia, you notice a startling whiteness that makes you second guess the winged creature as one of those charming winged squirrel-like rodents, known as a sugar glider.
The White Sugar Glider can either be an Albino Sugar Glider or a “Leucistic” Sugar Glider, and these endearing and perky animals make their already eye-catching appearance as a species all the more salient with their nearly pristine whiteness.
To learn more about this fascinating creature, from facts about its potential differences compared to its “regular” colored brethren to information about this recessive trait, read on.
It’s All in the Name
As “White” Sugar gliders can simply denote either an Albino or leucistic sugar glider, we will refer to the specific type of sugar glider when necessary throughout this article.
“Leucistic” is a term meaning a lack of pigmentation as a result of the inheritance of recessive traits from an individual specimen’s parents.
We see the term “Leucistic” applied to all kinds of species in the animal kingdom, from Leucistic Robin Birds to Leucistic turtles.
On the cellular level, how the white color develops is a result of cells failing to produce the pigmentation responsible for the “regular” color of its species. This can result in either a totally white, albino look or patches of irregular color in the individual animal.
The only non-white aspect of a Leucistic sugar glider will be its eyes (it would be quite troubling if they were a milky white, which could indicate blindness instead!), and their insides of their ears and nose.
In fact, the only visually (not genetically) differentiating thing between albino and leucistic sugar gliders is that the albino has red eyes.
And speaking of eyes…
They Can Only See in Greys and Reds!
From inferring from the amount of cones and rods in a sugar glider’s eyes, scientists believe they can only see in the colors grey and red, and white sugar gliders are no exception to this. Talk about being color blind!
Of course, it’s not like they would necessarily require the need to see a flower petal in its full ultraviolet glory like bees and butterflies, despite feeding on them because they’re nocturnal, anyway.
They Possess an Omnivore’s Palette
Sugar gliders, with the White Sugar glider varieties being no exception, derived the sweet aspect of their name from being observed feeding on nectar.
However, don’t let the “sugar” mislead you into feeding it soft drinks such as in this Vice video about sugar gliders, which is heavily critiqued and decried by actual sugar glider owners on the internet for being inaccurate and potentially dangerous.
While adorable, they are given negligent care as Gatorade can lead to teeth decay, and spinning wheel toys are notorious for damaging sugar glider’s tails.
Speaking of being fooled, do not let its cuddly appearance deceive you as to the benevolent nature of this animal, as being an omnivore, it eats both plant and other beings, from insects to even lizards.
They are even observed pouncing at small-sized birds for a meal!
Minimal Differences Between White Sugar Gliders and Other Sugar Gliders
Does being blindingly albino white mean that a White Sugar Glider will be radically opposite in everything a mosaic or brown-colored sugar glider does or is? Will it suddenly be diurnal instead of nocturnal, meaning active in the day and night respectively?
Fortunately, the answer is no. Aside from their rarity in breeding and therefore fetching a more costly price, as well as possibly having a lower life span (see below), they possess almost no biological or instinctual differences from their pigmentation-boasting brethren besides having inherited a crisp, unique look.
Cost More Expensive than Regular Sugar Gliders
As stated above, White sugar gliders cost slightly more expensive, on average 300-1000 USD compared to a 100-200 USD price. A warning, however, as all sugar gliders at infancy or as babies cost anywhere from 200 to 500 USD on average.
Know that you can dodge the expenses of purchasing an expensive leucistic or albino white glider by settling for a mostly-white or light grey sugar glider, as explained above there are virtually no differences between the species besides in phenotypic appearance.
However, there’s some vital information you need to know concerning the purchasing of all white sugar gliders…
The Industry is Under Controversy and Scrutiny
Sugar Glider breeding has extended from Australia to Indonesia to places like India and beyond. However, it has come to the growing attention of pet owners, breeders and franchises worldwide that the breeding industry has a likelihood of raising their sugar gliders in poor, sordid conditions.
For this reason, it is recommended, if buying in the US, that you only buy leucistic or albino white sugar gliders from breeders that can show proof of USDA certification.
The Recessive Gene – Breeding White Sugar Gliders
While the family featured in this Youtube Video are mostly mosaics, the ease of breeding an all-white or almost purely white sugar glider appears to be confirmed by this one youtuber, having “just one mosaic”-patterned sugar glider mating with another one that has yielded a joey that is completely white.
Here is a video of one YouTuber who happened to find a delightful recessive gene surprise in her cage, which is, of course, a white, leucistic sugar glider.
However, be aware that domestic inbreeding, which is never recommended for breeding animals of any species, with the mind to produce recessive genetic phenotypes can produce color variations not found in nature.
Such as the exact case with the White, Leucistic Sugar Glider, meaning that a pure, leucistic glider is not found in the wild.
Albinos are produced as a result of having two parents with the recessive albino alleles, and is understandably rare and hard to replicate in the wild.
Chance of a Lower Life Span
Because of the requirement of inbreeding, it is possible for a shortened lifespan expected for a white sugar glider compared to its other brethren. Conversely, a sugar glider with a diverse ancestry would be expected to live slightly longer.
With albino white sugar gliders, however, there have yet to be observed any special health defects with them, despite the fact that albinism in humans usually produces vision and skin defects.
They’re from the Land Down Under!
When we say the “Land Down Under,” of course, we refer to their native home continent of Australia. An easy way to remember this is to ask ourselves what kind of mammals that continent and nation is the most popular and nigh sole original home of?
Hint: what do Kangaroos and Koalas have in common?
If you guessed that winged sugar gliders are indeed, marsupials, then you were correct! Marsupials are a unique kind of mammal solely found in Australia who incubate their young in a fur patch in their front, just like Kangaroos.
A Coveted Color…
Many sugar glider owners or people looking into getting one yearn to own a leucistic sugar glider for its immaculately pristine and white-colored fur. This is understandable, since it’s a recessive gene, it’s a color that’s quite rare and therefore coveted among pet owners and breeders.
That Doesn’t Necessarily Serve the Animal’s Best Interests
Conversely, however, a White Sugar Glider’s lack of pigmentation can mean danger if released into the wild, because without its natural camouflage a pure white furred mammal would stick out among the foliage and moonlight like a sore thumb.
Understandably, it can also lead to less than ethical breeders who relentlessly inbreed or favor their white sugar glider stock over others.
They’re Vocal Creatures
Despite appearing like more cute and photogenic bats, sugar gliders are not mute, as they can be as vocal as a guinea pig when they wake up and “bark” for their owner to come see them or feed them.
However, they have other ways to communicate among their species, including using scent trials and through body contact.
They Require Constant Affection
This is definitely not the pet to be left alone in the house, as they can literally die of loneliness. Understandably, this also makes them not easy to take care of, as they need constant attention and care regarding their feeding and playtime.
This means that you would want to be an active participant in their playtime, as a small cage is already insufficient and discouraged for a pet to spend the majority of their day in, which most owners rectify by taking them out during periods of the day to crawl and explore around the room.
However, there is not all these maintenance without recompense, of course! White sugar gliders, and therefore all sugar gliders, of course, would mirror the affection and trust you show for them after long periods of care and play.
Each Appendage a Unique Purpose
When pondering on the length of a white sugar glider’s every limb, from its tail to its seemingly, impossibly extended tongue, the single adjective a layperson can use to describe this animal may be “long.”
However, there’s a reason why each part of this fascinating animal is long and unique from say, the common squirrel.
The reason for its long tongue is for it to burrow into the funnel of a flower to drink its sweet nectar.
Their tails are semi-prehensive, so they cannot use it to hang onto things, but instead use them to steer themselves as they pilot their gliding through the air.
Even their one nail in their back leg appears long, which is modified to help them groom the insects and knots of fur of themselves.
The front and back legs, which are connected like a tent, may appear to be one long foot (like an arthropod such as the slug!) if viewed up close in isolation, but obviously the flap “connection” allows for surface area during gliding, which can allow them to glide as far as 150 feet!