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Co-operation between two or more individuals has been shown to yield benefits in some vertebrate species (Bygott, Bertram & Hanby, 1979; Packer & Pusey, 1982; Grinnell, Packer & Pusey, 1995), however, until now such behaviour has not been described for marsupials. In this two-and-a-half-year study co-operative behaviour among male sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) was revealed. A dominant relationship to females was not observed.

Male sugar gliders not only showed extensive co-operative behaviour in suppressing subordinate males, but in sharing food and nesting boxes as well as taking care of the offspring. DNA fingerprinting has been used to describe the genetic variability in relatedness of the coalition partners.

Co-operative behaviour in male sugar gliders was exclusively observed among closely related individuals, therefore supporting the kin-selection theory in this small marsupial.

We describe the genetic variability in relatedness, the behaviour and some physiological parameters of male sugar gliders in four captive groups to test the hypothesis that the sugar glider is an example of co-operative behaviour involving kin selection in marsupials