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Summary of the IVth International Conference on Dormice

Dormouse News

This newsletter was prepared by Dr Pat Morris, Dr Paul Bright and Mary Morris.
Dr Pat Morris, School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX.

The Fourth International Conference on Dormice

Edirne, Turkey ­ September 1999

The Fourth International Conference on Dormice was held on the campus of Trakya University in Edirne, Turkey from 13 to 16 September 1999. It was attended by about 32 people from 13 different countries as well as a group of Turkish biologists from our host university. A full list of participants and their contact details is included in the Dormouse Network address list in this newsletter. Edirne is an ancient town situated close to where the border of Turkey meets those of Greece and Bulgaria. The river crossings which lead into the town from the West have seen many centuries of travellers and armies pass through on their way to and from Constantinople, now Istanbul, which is about 200km to the East. Most tourists pass the town without stopping so it is unspoiled by tourism and we much enjoyed exploring the bazaar, museum and ancient mosques ­ the largest of which was built by the same architect as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Most of the conference delegates stayed at an hotel in the town and were taken by bus each day to the university campus. In the evening the buses took us in the opposite direction, through the town and across the river to a splendid and very generous dinner, all included in the conference fee. This was in the adminstrative centre of the university which is located in the magnificent station building which had to be temporarily abandoned at the end of the First World War because it was then across the border in Greece. By the time it had been returned to Turkey, the railway had been diverted closer to the town and a new station built. The Biology Department has just moved to an extensive new campus on the outskirts of Edirne where it occupies an enormous new building which, at the time of the conference was still largely unfurnished. The conference participants walked through the corridors and marvelled enviously at the amount of space. By now that space will be full of students and all the usual equipment of a busy department. We were able to look at a number of rare dormice in captivity whose behaviour is being researched and sometimes televised, and at a traditional zoology museum with large collections of butterflies and other insects as well as the usual vertebrate skeletons. At a time when many universities are disposing of such treasures, and because molecular biologists often do not seem to know the names of even their own bones, it was a pleasure to see a new department determined to continue teaching whole animal and plant biology. The conference itself took place in the Turkan Sabanci Centre, a new congress hall which has a large lecture theatre and a very spacious foyer, where the posters were displayed and discussed.

Mary Morris

Progress in Dormouse Research

New insights from the IVth International Conference on Dormice in Edirne, Turkey The IVth International Conference on Dormice again showed an interesting mixture of different topics around the dormouse. The main targets of researches about dormice in the last three years were behaviour, population dynamics, ecology, physiology and systematics. Different methods were used to investigate questions about systematics and the characteristics of dormice. In addition to classic work on analysis of skull measurements, Markow investigated different populations of Dryomys with genetic methods and different populations of Glis with non-metric methods. Kryštufek investigated body compartmentalisation in Glis. Body weight changes during the active period and other data of Dryomys, Glis and Muscardinus from Hungary were compared by Bako et al., Juškaitis made similar investigations with Muscardinus from Lithuania. A lot of papers were presented about population dynamics, especially habitat preferences, habitat fragmentation and density. An interesting discussion resulted from the paper of Bright, who showed that a 3m gap in a hedge acted as a barrier to movement of Muscardinus, whereas Büchner reported migrations of up to 8km with open field crossings of up to 500m in the same species. Nowakowski & Boratynski presented an attempt to estimate the density of a Dryomys population. Together with the results of Bright & Morris, who reviewed habitats for reintroduction of Muscardinus in northern England, there is real progress in estimating dormice populations. The ecology of the dormouse is still a field with a lot of open questions, but more and more reports about habitat preferences and the distribution of dormice were given to illuminate this broad field. Obuch collected owl pellets and showed a map of dormice distribution in the Middle East. He found no less than five species of dormice in Turkey. Other reports, on climate and hibernation, drew a picture of short and shallow hibernation for dormice in south and south-eastern Europe, whereas in northern latitudes the hibernation period is more extended. Behaviour research in the enigmatic dormice is another interesting topic. Most of the researches are done under semi-natural conditions in outdoor cages. Buruldag et al. investigated behaviour and reproduction in captive Myomimus roachi, Minato did similar research with captive Glirulus japonicus. A new field of behaviour research is the vocalisation and ultrasound communication in dormice. Boratynski et al., Hutterer and Minato have all made investigations and comparisons of dormice vocalisation with six different genera on three continents. All this new information and knowledge should assist the conservation of dormice and their habitats. A few beginnings have been made in England, Poland and Japan. Minato showed impressive pictures of a dormice bridge across a road in Japan, and the dormouse museum he has set up. Kryštufek gave a presentation about the dormouse club ÒKrimÓ in Slovenia, where the old dormice hunting tradition leads to a new interest in dormice conservation.

M.Wilz, Marburg, Germany

The Mid-Congress Excursion

On Wednesday all the congress participants went on an excursion to the Istranca Mountains. In the regional capital, Kirklareli, a delegation was received by the local Govenor and then we drove behind our official police and army escort into the mountains. After an excellent lunch of trout we stopped in the forest to check a few dormouse boxes and look at a couple of Glis glis before taking dinner at a lakeside barbecue restaurant.

Mary Morris