The Dormouse Hollow

Dormouse Biology

General Biology: Gliridae

Dormice (Gliridae, Rodentia, Mammalia)

This family consists of 10 recent genera and 28 species. Photos

One genus, Graphiurus, inhabits Africa south of the Sahara. The other genera occur in the Palaearctic region - Europe, northern Africa, central and southwestern Asia, and Japan. The sequence of genera presented here follows that suggested by the discussion of Holden (in Wilson and Reeder 1993), who recognized three subfamilies: the Graphiurinae, with the single genus Graphiurus; the Myoxinae, with the genera Glirulus, Muscardinus, and Myoxus; and the Leithiinae, with Dryomys, Chaetocauda, Eliomys, Hypnomys, Myomimus, and Selevinia. Holden's use of the name Myoxidae is followed here, but this family sometimes is called Gliridae or Muscardinidae. Ellerman and Morrison-Scott (1966), among others, recognized two additional myoxid subfamilies: the Platacanthomyinae, considered here to be a subfamily of the Muridae; and the Seleviniinae, often designated as the full family Seleviniidae but treated here, in accordance with Holden, as a synonym of the Leithiinae.

Dormice look like squirrels but are smaller, and one genus (Glirulus) resembles chipmunks. Head and body length is 60-190 mm and tail length is 40-165 mm. The pelage is soft, and the tail (except in Myomimus) is bushy. The eyes are prominent and the ears are rounded. The legs and toes are short, and the short, curved claws are adapted for climbing. The forefeet have four digits and the hind feet have five. The underside of the feet and digits is naked. Female dormice have 6-12 mammae.

The skull has well-developed zygomatic bones, no postorbital processes, and relatively large bullae (Arata 1967; Ognev 1963). The dental formula is: (i 1/1, c 0/0, pm 1/1, m 3/3) x 2 = 20. The cheek teeth are low-crowned and have a series of parallel ridges of enamel across the crown.

Dormice live in wooded areas, hedgerows, gardens, and rocky places. They are generally nocturnal and scansorial and are squirrel-like in some habits. They shelter in hollow trees, on the branches of trees or shrubs, in rocky crevices, in the deserted burrows of other animals, and in the attics of buildings, often in a nest of plant material. During the late summer and early autumn they generally become quite fat, and in the Palearctic from October to April they hibernate in a curled-up, circular position; they may awake from time to time to eat food they have stored. The diet includes fruits, nuts, insects, eggs, and small vertebrates.

There are usually one or two litters per year, each consisting of 2-10 young. Gestation periods of 21-30 days have been reported. The young are born in a nest, often lined with moss, in a tree hollow, on a branch, or sometimes in a ground shelter. They may live as long as 5.5 years in the wild.

The known geological range of the Myoxidae is middle Eocene to Recent in Europe, upper Miocene to Recent in Africa, and Recent in Asia (Klingener 1984). One of the Recent genera is extinct, and most others have become rare because of human habitat disruption.

Information taken from: Nowak, R.M. (Ed.). Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th Edition. The John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London, 1999.

A list of dormouse species: