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A member of the Gliridae family, a dormouse is a nocturnal animal that thrives in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Distinguished by its long periods of hibernation, the dormouse is defined by its squirrel or chipmunk-like looks, large eyes, short and curved claws, and in some species, a bushy and long tail.
See the fact file below for more information on the dormouse or alternatively, you can download our 19-page Dormouse worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Most dormice have squirrel or chipmunk-like features, including a long and bushy tail. Both dormice and squirrels are rodents classified under the Sciurognathi suborder, but they are members of different families. However, several dormice species resemble a mouse or a rat, including thinner, less-hairy tails. Members of the Myomimus genera, known as mouse-tailed dormouse, include Roach’s mouse-tailed dormouse and the desert dormouse (Selevinia betpakdalaensis). These dormice have mouse-like tails that, although long, are not capable of grasping.
- Dormice are covered with thick, soft fur.
- As small rodents, their body lengths range between 2.4 and 7.5 inches, and they weigh between 0.53 and 6.35 ounces. The Japanese dormouse (Glirulus japonicus) is about 2.5 to 3.1 inches long, while the edible dormouse (Myoxus glis) reaches 5.1 to 7.5 inches.
- Similar to that of squirrels, the dental formula of dormice often lacks premolars.
- They are also distinct among the rodent families in that they do not have a cecum, or a pouch within the peritoneum that is considered to be where the large intestine starts.
- The feet of dormice consist of four toes on the front feet and five toes on the rear feet, which is an adaptation for arboreal life. Strong, curved claws on each toe and cushioned pads on the soles that help these rodents grip firmly. Their hind feet resemble those of squirrels because they can be turned backwards, permitting dormice to move down trees easily and hang head-first on a branch when eating.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
- These rodents inhabit Europe, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, western and central Asia, and Japan.
- Dormice species typically thrive in forest, woodland, and scrub habitats, and they are naturally arboreal. However, some live in dense forests only periodically, abandoning the canopy of tall trees.
- The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) and the edible dormouse (Glis glis) are sometimes spotted in orchards, with the latter even able to survive on the ground.
- Only the mouse-tailed dormouse, under the genus Myomimus, is known to live solely on the ground.
- The desert dormouse (Selevinia) is a resident of the desert scrub.
- The African dormouse (Graphiurus) lives in sub-Saharan Africa and is typically seen in forested habitats.
- The Roach’s mouse-tailed dormouse (Myomimus roachi) inhabits different open habitats, except forests, in southeastern Europe.
BEHAVIOR, REPRODUCTION, LIFE CYCLE, AND FEEDING
- There are some dormice that are predominately carnivorous, such as the African, edible, and hazel dormice, while some intensely practice a vegetarian diet. The desert dormouse, on the other hand, is assumed to be purely carnivorous.
- Most dormouse species are nocturnal. Aside from the mating season, these rodents display a hint of territoriality, and most of them coexist in small family groups, with home ranges that depend on the species.
- Dormice have an outstanding sense of hearing and produce different signals in varying vocalizations when communicating with each other. They are also able to shed their tail to escape from a predator.
- They breed once or twice annually, giving birth to an average of four babies after a gestation period of 21 to 32 days. Dormice are able to survive up to five years in the wild.
- Baby dormice are born hairless and helpless, and their eyes open 18 days after birth. They reach sexual maturity after the end of their first hibernation.
- They are omnivorous, typically eating fruits, berries, flowers, nuts, and insects. The lack of a cecum means low-grade vegetable matter is only a light part of their diet.
- Among the most distinguishable characteristics of dormice is that they prefer to hibernate in temperate zones.
- Hibernation takes place for about six months, or even longer if the weather stays cool. There are instances when dormice wake up for short periods to eat food they had previously stored somewhere close to their burrows.
- During the summer, they build up fat in their bodies, to nourish them throughout their hibernation period.
- It is called a dormouse for a reason – its trait of hibernation. The name originated from the Anglo-Norman word dormeus, which means “sleepy (one)”, which was soon altered by folk etymology to resemble the word “mouse”.
- Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland featured the sleepy behavior of the dormouse’s character.
RELATIONSHIP WITH HUMANS
- In ancient Rome, the edible dormouse (Glis glis) was considered a dish, either as a savory appetizer or as a dessert dipped in honey and poppy seeds.
- Romans used a specialized type of enclosure, a terracotta container used for storing edible dormice called a glirarium, to raise and fatten dormice before being eaten.
- These rodents are still eaten in Slovenia and in some places in Croatia, such as Lika and the islands of Hvar and Brač.
- The Elizabethans assumed that dormouse fat could induce sleep since these rodents put on fat before they hibernate.
- They are also uncommon as pets and are considered exotic. The woodland dormouse (Graphiurus murinus) is the most popular dormouse species in pet trade.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the dormouse across 19 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Dormouse worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the dormouse which is a nocturnal animal that thrives in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Distinguished by its long periods of hibernation, the dormouse is defined by its squirrel or chipmunk-like looks, large eyes, short and curved claws, and in some species, a bushy and long tail.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Dormouse Facts
- Mini Mouse
- Complete the Puzzle
- Dormouse Life
- Sleeping Quarters
- Ask a Dormouse
- Not Mice at All
- Little Species
- Relationship with Humans
- Hibernation Habit
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Link will appear as Dormouse Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 17, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
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