School of Science, Biology
Greg Byrnes filming with the BBC

Greg Byrnes, Ph.D., is the go-to guy on “flying” mammals – and the whole world knows it.

The associate professor of biology was quoted in the recent ScienceNews article “On a cool night in Malaysia, scientists track mysterious colugos across the treetops.”

Colugos are nocturnal tree-dwellers, and the ScienceNews journalist embedded with a team of researchers on Langkawi Island, Malaysia to study them. When the writer needed further background, she reached out to Byrnes.

Byrnes knows whereof he speaks – he has made annual trips to Southeast Asia for the past 20 years to study this species and others.

Byrnes’ broad research interests are in understanding how and why animals move. For many animals, locomotor performance determines whether or not an individual is able to collect enough food, evade predators, migrate to new habitats, or attract mates. Colugos are master gliders, and he explained the advantage for them is that gliding saves them time.

“Gliding lets an animal cross open space in a few seconds so that it can spend more time feeding or traveling even farther,” he was quoted in the article.

“Every time someone writes about colugos, I get a call.” 

Greg Byrnes, Ph.D., associate professor of biology

The colugos’ sustained glide was reported in 2011 in the Journal of Experimental Biology by Byrnes and his colleagues. At the time, most researchers assumed gliding was an energy-efficient way for colugos to travel. Byrnes’ team tested that idea by gluing data loggers onto wild Sunda colugos in Singapore and recording almost 260 glides among four individuals.

His most recent research is focusing on measuring body shape change in small mammals as they prepare to glide.