The term "flying" is somewhat misleading, since flying squirrels are actually gliders incapable of true flight. Steering is accomplished by adjusting tautness of the patagium, largely controlled by a small cartilaginous wrist bone. The tail acts as a stabilizer in flight, much like the tail of a kite, and as an adjunct airfoil when "braking" prior to landing on a tree trunk. Southern flying squirrels have been kept as pets since the US colonial era.
The flying squirrels, scientifically known as Pteromyini or Petauristini, are a tribe of squirrel (family Sciuridae). There are 43 species in this tribe, the largest of which is the woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus). The 2 species of the genus Glaucomys (Glaucomys sabrinus and Glaucomys volans) are native to North America, and the Siberian flying squirrel is native to parts of northern Europe (Pteromys volans).
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Flying squirrel".