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Southeast Asia has a unique abundance and diversity of gliding animals – flying squirrels, flying frogs, and flying lizards with wings of skin that enable them to glide through the tropical forest. What could be the explanation for the great diversity in this region and the scarcity of such animals in other tropical forests Gliding has generally been viewed as either a means of escaping predators, by allowing animals to move between trees without descending to the ground, or as an energetically efficient way of traveling long distances between scattered resources. But what is special about Southeast Asian rain forests. Scientists have proposed various theories to explain the diversity of gliding animals in Southeast Asia. The first theory might be called the tall-trees hypothesis. The forests of Southeast Asia are taller than forests elsewhere due to the domination of the dipterocarp family: a family of tall, tropical hardwood trees. Taller trees could allow for longer glides and the opportunity to build up speed in a dive before gliding. The lower wind speeds in tall-tree forests might also contribute by providing a more advantageous situation for gliding between trees. This argument has several flaws, however. First, gliding animals are found throughout the Southeast Asian region, even in relatively short-stature forests found in the northern range of the rain forest in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Some gliders also thrive in low secondary forests, plantations, and even city parks. Clearly, gliding animals do not require tall trees for their activities. In addition, many gliding animals begin their glides from the middle of tree trunks, not even ascending to the tops of trees to take off. A second theory, which we might call the broken-forest hypothesis, speculates that the top layer of the forest – the tree canopy – has fewer woody vines connecting tree crowns in Southeast Asian forests than in New World and African forests. As a result, animals must risk descending to the ground or glide to move between trees. In addition, the tree canopy is presumed to be more uneven in height in Asian forests, due to the presence of the tall dipterocarp trees with lower trees between them, again favoring gliding animals. Yet ecologists who work in different regions of the world observe tremendous local variation in tree height, canopy structure, and abundance of vines, depending on the site conditions of soil, climate, slope elevation, and local disturbance. One can find many locations in Southeast Asia where there are abundant woody vines and numerous connections between trees and similarly many Amazonian forests with few woody vines. A final theory differs from the others in suggesting that it is the presence of dipterocarp trees themselves that is driving the evolution of gliding species. According to this view, dipterocarp forests can be food-deserts for the animals that live in them. The animals living in dipterocarp forests that have evolved gliding consist of two main feeding groups: leaf eaters and carnivores that eat small prey such as insects and small vertebrates. For leaf-eating gliders the problem is not the absence of any leaves but the desert-like absence of edible leaves. Dipterocarp trees often account for 50 percent or more of the total number of canopy trees in a forest and over 95 percent of the large trees, yet dipterocarp leaves are unavailable to most vertebrate plant eaters because of the high concentration of toxic chemicals in their leaves. Many species of gliding animals avoid eating dipterocarp leaves and so must travel widely through the forest, bypassing the dipterocarp trees, to find the leaves they need to eat. And gliding is a more efficient manner of traveling between trees than descending to the ground and walking or else jumping between trees. Many carnivorous animals also may need to search more widely for food due to the lower abundance of insects and other prey. This is caused by dipterocarps' irregular flowering and fruiting cycles of two- to seven-year intervals, causing a scarcity of the flowers, fruits, seeds, and seedlings that are the starting point of so many food chains. The lower abundance of prey in dipterocarp forests forces animals such as lizards and geckos to move between tree crowns in search of food, with gliding being the most efficient means.