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phalanger (fəlănˈjər), any of the numerous and varied marsupials, or pouched mammals, of the family Phalangeridae, found in Australia, New Guinea, and adjacent islands. Many are somewhat like squirrels in appearance. They are also called Australian opossums, although true opossums belong to a different marsupial family and are found in the Americas. The koala is a well-known but atypical phalanger. Typical phalangers are nocturnal, arboreal animals with woolly fur, long, often prehensile tails, dexterous forepaws, large claws, opposable first hind toes, and joined second and third hind toes. They feed on fruits, leaves, and insects. Commonest is the brush-tailed phalanger, or possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), with a thickly furred tail, heavy hindquarters, a pointed face, and large pointed ears. It is found throughout Australia and adjacent areas, especially in woods, but also in towns; it has adapted well to human settlement and clearing. Cuscus is a name applied to several species of slow-moving phalangers about the size of house cats. Cuscuses have rounded bodies and heads, inconspicuous ears, and large round eyes. They display a wide range of colors. The honey phalanger is a mouse-sized, shrub-dwelling animal of SW Australia, with a very long tongue used to gather nectar, pollen, and insects from flowers. Several types of phalanger have evolved a gliding mechanism consisting of a parachutelike fold of furry skin between the front and hind legs. These animals are called gliders, or flying squirrels, although they are not related to the true flying squirrels. Phalangers are classified in several genera of the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Marsupialia, family Phalangeridae.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



any one mammal of the genus Phalanger of the family Phalangeridae. The body is 30–65 cm long, the tail, 25–60 cm. The coloring varies from white and gray to reddish brown and black. There are seven species, which are distributed in Australia (Cape York) and on New Guinea and neighboring islands west to Sulawesi. Cuscuses are arboreal animals, and they move slowly. They use their sharp claws and muscular, prehensile tails for climbing. They are nocturnal, sleeping in the daytime in dense tree crowns or tree hollows. Cuscuses feed on fruits and leaves as well as insects, birds, and birds’ eggs. There are one or two young in a litter.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


any of several large nocturnal phalangers of the genus Phalanger, of N Australia, New Guinea, and adjacent islands, having dense fur, prehensile tails, large eyes, and a yellow nose
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
It includes threatened and endangered species such as the spotted cuscus and green tree python.
The modern Timorese fauna is completed by a New Guinean cuscus (Phalanger orientalis) introduced in the early Holocene, and a suite of Asian domesticates and commensals, all introduced since the mid-late Holocene (Glover 1986).
Wacky Fact: The marsupial cuscus spends so much time sitting, even while eating and sleeping, that fur on the backside is sometimes worn into a bald spot.
For example, this Dani man from the Pegunungan Jayawijaya mountains in Irian Jaya is pleased with his catch, a specimen of cuscus (Phalanger), a small marsupial of the wet forests of Insulindia and the islands of the Strait.
For a spotted cuscus, life in the slow lane is just right!
In the Nuaulu case, the domain of spirits also overlaps with the natural world, such that "spirits" may be treated as natural categories and vice versa: long-horned beetles may be the spirits of persons killed by falling from a tree while hunting cuscus, spirits of the distant dead may enter the bodies of animals, influencing their behaviour, while some animal species are believed capable of transforming themselves into others.