Phalanger, a small, furry marsupial (animal that suckles its young in a pouch). Phalangers inhabit Australia, New Guinea, and numerous East Indian islands east of Borneo. Phalangers are distantly related to American opossums and some species are popularly called opossums or possums.
Phalangers range in length from 5 ½ to 35 inches (14–90 cm), including the tail. They are gray, brown, black, or reddish on their upper parts, with fur of lighter color below. They may be spotted or striped. Their long tails are fluffy or partly or largely naked (hairless). The naked tails are prehensile (that is, can be used for grasping). The name phalanger refers to the animal's phalanges (opposable fingers and toes), which are adapted to climbing and grasping. Most phalangers feed at night, sleeping by day in trees or in burrows. They eat fruit, flowers, and leaves. Some species also eat insects, birds' eggs, and small birds. The honey possum, which has a pointed snout and bristled tongue, obtains nectar from blossoms.
Among other groups of phalangers are several that have membrane between the front and hind legs on each side, and can glide from tree to tree. These flying phalangers include the pigmy gliding possum, the sugar glider, and the greater gliding possum. Some can glide up to 325 feet (100 m) from one tree to the next. The cuscuses are a large group of phalangers that resemble monkeys, and are extremely variable in color from one individual to another. They eat only leaves.
Phalangers belong to the family Phalangeridae. The honey possum is Tarsipes spencerae; the pigmy gliding possum, Acrobates pygmaeus; the sugar glider, Petaurus breviceps; the greater gliding possum, Schoinobates volans; the common cuscus, Phalanger orientalis.