Biologists used to classify the flying squirrels of California and the coastal Pacific Northwest as northern flying squirrels. It wasn’t until co-author Dr. Brian Arbogast, associate professor of biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and formerly a postdoctoral researcher at the Burke Museum, looked closely at the genetics of flying squirrel specimens from the Burke’s collections that it became apparent that they may be a different species. Flying squirrels collected since the early 1900s in the Pacific Coast region often looked smaller and darker than their counterparts from east of the Cascades.
Ultimately, it was DNA testing that revealed a third species unique to the Pacific Northwest.
"For 200 years we thought we had only had one species of flying squirrel in the Northwest—until we looked at the nuclear genome, in addition to mitochondrial DNA, for the first time."
—Jim Kenagy, Burke Museum Emeritus Curator of Mammals