I am currently creating a small creature about the size of a squirrel. It lives in the trees and eats fruit. It is the prey of a cat-like creature that has a prehensile tail and is agile and can run quickly through the trees. Would a prehensile tail be useful for this creature? Or flaps of skin so it can glide? The only problem would be that they can make it harder for the creature to move around quickly and could get caught on branches. However, the decrease in mobility might be compensated for by the fact that the creature would be able to glide long distances. Is there a better option for the skin flaps because I don't think it needs a prehensile tail, which might be too clunky for such a small creature to benefit from.

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    $\begingroup$ A prehensile tail is not going to help with escaping rather general slower mobility, prehensile tails are useful because its an additional point of contact so you can use less limbs and do other things with them or have more points of contact when climbing. Gliding is useful but you leave the tree and often end up on the ground giving a lot of risk, does it out weigh the benefits? In general the squirrel body shape is really just what you want they are rather ideal arboreal prey objects and can move exceedingly well on trees quickly and being small enough they can survive terminal velocity. $\endgroup$ – SIK Mephisto Apr 9 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ What if the creature glided from tree to tree? $\endgroup$ – StarSeeker Apr 9 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ This is the ideal course of action but again is it worth it? in the split second you see a predator you don't always have time to calculate the perfect aim, and if the predator is cat like it might just jump down and chase you there, gliding is an effective counter for slow moving ambush predators like snakes, and even if you did aim to another tree there is always the chance you get sniped out of the air by a bird of prey. $\endgroup$ – SIK Mephisto Apr 9 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ Why wouldn't you be looking at real life example creatures in that niche? Monkeys, bats, squirrels. If they are fruit eating that's tropical or subtropical. $\endgroup$ – Gault Drakkor Apr 9 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ Its fine to have them be similar to preexisting there's a reason such a style was there in the first place, it worked. Convergent evolution will lead to parallels and that's ok. If your ecosystem calls for a squirrel like entity there's nothing wrong with having a squirrel like entity. You can try to invent something new but just realize that there's a lot of factors to consider and potential downsides issues or flaws. $\endgroup$ – SIK Mephisto Apr 9 at 18:54

Both prehensile tail and gliding!

Because you like them both and the combo is awesome. And it could work.

A gliding cat would have an attack something like a hawk, which could work. Cats can survive falling long distances because they are small and light and spread out in flight, increasing drag.


Like many small animals, cats are said to have a non-fatal terminal falling velocity. That is, because of their very low body volume-to-weight ratio these animals are able to slow their decent by spreading out ' flying squirrel style. Simply put, animals with these characteristics are fluffy and have a high drag coefficient giving them a greater chance of surviving these falls.

It helps to be fluffy too.

So my vision for your predatory arboreal cat. 1: It is smaller than its prey. That works fine for weasels who routinely take rats and birds three times their size.

2: It is very fluffy.

3: It has a long tail, clouded leopard style. The tail is fluffy and massive compared with the animal. It is used to balance in the trees like the clouded leopard does. It can be used to steer while "gliding" which is really a controlled long fall.

The tail is prehensile and here is where the prehensile tail comes in. Imagine you are a flying weasel who hits your prey at speed. You are both in a tree. What next? You both fall of the branch. An opossum-like prehensile tail lets your cat catch the branch and keep them both from falling while it has use of claws and teeth to dispatch the prey. The cats might also hang from their tails and drop onto prey below.

Pretty much this is a clouded leopard, smaller, flatter, fluffier and with a more fully prehensile tail.

A cat with a prehensile tail is the biggest stretch. Maybe this is a non-Carnivoran mammal or maybe something completely different. The wikipedia article has some interesting insights on why there are more animals with prehensile tails in the New World and more gliders in the Old World. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehensile_tail

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    $\begingroup$ The question was about the squirrel, not the cat. $\endgroup$ – StarSeeker Apr 15 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ Although this is a good animal. $\endgroup$ – A. B. May 12 at 6:34

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