Online Encyclopedia

PHALANGER

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 344 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PHALANGER, a book-name applied to the more typical representatives of the group of diprotodont marsupial mammals, including the cuscuses of the Moluccas and Celebes, and the so-called opossums of Australia, and thus collectively the whole family Phalangeridae. (See MARSUPIALIA.) Phalangers generally are small or medium-sized woolly-coated marsupials, with long, powerful, and often prehensile tails, large claws, and opposable nailless first hind toes. They seem in the day to be dull and sleepy, but are alert at night. They live mostly upon fruits, leaves and blossoms, although a few feed habitually upon insects, and all relish, in confinement, an occasional bird or other small animal. Several possess flying-membranes stretched between their fore and hind limbs, by the help of which they can make long and sustained leaps through the air, like flying-squirrels; but the possession of these flying-membranes does not seem to be any indication of special affinity, the characters of the skull and teeth sharply dividing the flying forms and uniting them with other species of the non-flying groups. The skull (see fig. r) is, as a rule, broad and flattened, with the posterior part swollen out laterally owing to the numerous air-cells situated in the substance of the squamosal .bones. The dental formula is very variable, especially as regards the premolars, of which some at least in each genus are reduced to functionless rudiments, and may even vary in number on the two sides of the jaw of the same individual. The incisors are always , the lower one very large and inclined forwards, and the canines normally f, cf which the inferior is always minute, and in one genus generally absent. The molars number either f or -. All the species here discussed are included in the sub-family Phalangerinae, of which the distinctive features, as well as those of the family Phalangerinae, are referred to under
End of Article: PHALANGER
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