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Digest 3 September 2000 - Vol. 1, No. 3

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1) Reply to V. Loehr (DT 1/1): Graphiurus identification (R. Hutterer)

Reply to V. Loehr, Graphiurus identification:

Dear Victor Loehr,
It is very difficult if not impossible to identify species of Graphiurus from pictures alone, set aside the very large ones (Graphiurus ocularis from South Africa and Graphiurus nagtglassi from West and Central Africa; the latter is better known as G. hueti). Most animals obtained from zoos or pet stores have no locality information, which makes matters even worse. I have examined dead specimens from various keepers in Germany, including the Tierpark Berlin, and they all were Graphiurus parvus, a small grey animal with a somewhat paler underside. We also keep a large colony of this species in Bonn. I assume that your animals also belong here.

Information on the various species of Graphiurus is found in scientific journals and in local handbooks, but is not readily available. Mary Ellen Holden was revising the entire genus (see her contribution in: Wilson and Reeder, eds. 1993, Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Washington). See also: Holden, M.E. 1996. Systematic revision of sub-Saharan African dormice (Rodentia: Myoxidae: Graphiurus) Pat I: An introduction to the generic revision and a revision of Graphiurus surdus. American Museum Novitates 3157: 1-44.

Best wishes,
Rainer Hutterer

Dr. Rainer Hutterer
Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut
und Museum Alexander Koenig
Section of Mammals
Adenauerallee 160
D-53113 Bonn

2) Reply to V. Loehr (DT 1/1): Graphiurus identification (P. & M. Morris)

To Victor Loehr

Dear Victor
Sorry to be so late with our response - the Dormouse talk arrived just as we were leaving for holiday. Pat Morris has asked me to tell you that the best information on Graphiurus can be found in the book: The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion by Skinner & Smithers, published by Pretoria University 1990

Best wishes
Mary Morris

3) Reply to B. Koppman (DT 1/1): Marking Dormice (P. & M. Morris)

To Bettina Koppman

Dear Bettina
Sorry to be so late with our response - the Dormouse talk arrived just as we were leaving for holiday. In reply to your query about tattooing Glis, Pat Morris (who is out doing fieldwork on Glis today) has asked me to tell you that he punches the numbers on to the ears. It is important to first put ink on the ear, then punch the tattoo and then rub the ink in very thoroughly. Reading the numbers is made easier if you hold a small torch behind the ear.

Hope this helps
Best wishes
Mary Morris

4) The Millenium Gathering of Dormouse Recorders (M. Morris)

Dear Werner
Many months ago I promised to send you a copy of our Dormouse Monitor which was circulated in April. I am sorry it has taken so long to do anything about it. This is partly because I have been unable to make EPS files from Pagemaker (which you know I managed -at least partially - with a previous issue) running under Win98. Pagemaker keeps asking me to install a Postscript printer driver - I have done so and it is there but I give up. I have therefore copied at least the story of the Dormouse Gathering which you may want to include in items on Dormouse talk.

I also attach some comments from Pat on other contributions. I'm not very clear on how to send them so I hope this does not cause you much work.

All the best

The Millenium Gathering of Dormouse Recorders

The Gathering was held in Cheddar, Somerset (where dormouse recording started) on Saturday 25 March 2000. By then it had grown into a much larger event than originally envisaged and was attended by nearly 100 people. We met at the Bath Arms for lunch before moving to The Kings of Wessex Leisure Centre for the afternoon programme of talks and discussions. In the evening we returned to the Bath Arms for dinner. The cost of the event was subsidised by English Nature, for which we are most grateful, and the local arrangements were made by Doug and Olive Woods, with whom work on Somerset dormice began.

The first major breakthrough was Elaine Hurrell's observation that dormice open nuts in a distinctive way. This led to the Mammal Society survey and Elaine's ground breaking paper on the distribution of dormice (see list on page 3). At about that time, during a casual conversation at the Mammal Society Conference, Doug Woods said to Pat and Mary Morris "Oh! I can show you dormice. They nest in boxes that I put up for them." And so it all began. A few weeks later the Morrises drove to Somerset and accompanied Doug to Cheddar Gorge. Near the top they climbed a few feet up the hill to where a small box hung on the trunk of a coppiced hazel. Doug took it down, lifted the lid and there was a beautiful golden dormouse curled up and asleep.

Pat had already recently solved the problem of how to catch dormice in wire mesh traps as they walk along tree branches at night, and tested it out on the Isle of Wight, but you don't catch very many that way. To really learn about the life style and ecology of these relatively rare little animals you have to have a reliable way of catching a reasonable number and Doug's boxes were clearly the answer.

Subsequently Pat obtained a grant from the Nature Conservancy Council and Paul Bright was employed to do research on dormice at Cheddar and, incidentally, gain his PhD in doing so. Paul lived in a caravan behind the barn on a farm at the top of the hill, and radio tracked and trapped dormice night and day for three years on the steep slopes of Cheddar Gorge.

The Gathering

Pat told that story during his introductory talk at the Dormouse Gathering. He reminded everybody of how little was known about dormice twenty years ago (not even the average body weight) and how much more we know now as a result of Paul's work. He also reminded those present of the various publications that are available from the Mammal Society and English Nature which explain the ecology of dormice and how habitat can be managed to encourage them.

Paul Bright then explained the aims of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (see back page) and what we hope to learn from analysis of the data which is being collected by Dormouse Recorders all over the country. Already many important principles are becoming clear which help us understand these unexpectedly complex creatures.

Following these talks the audience then divided into four workshop/discussion groups, spending about fifteen minutes talking about each topic in turn:

The animated discussions continued over tea.

Two of the recorders who had volunteered to talk then had their turn: Gordon Vaughan, for whom dormice are a pest, eating the eggs of his pied flycatchers and filling his enormous nestboxes, entertained us with his personal perspectives on dormice, showing pictures of his woods. Under a high canopy of oak there is almost nothing but holly and bare ground on very steep slopes. Robin Cottrill, then described his area of Essex in which a number of small woods contain dormice but he believes more could do so if the existing hedges were linked together and to the woods. He is encouraging a group of interested local farmers to use the dormouse in applying for grants to help them restore the former mosaic of hedges and copses.

After a question and answer session, the afternoon was rounded off by Tony Mitchell-Jones of English Nature who, besides overseeing the funding for the Monitoring Programme (and our Gathering) is a recorder himself in Cambridgeshire.

Dormouse Bibliography - New Publications

1) New Reports / Publications

Thanks to all for sending copies, reprints! - Werner

Storch, G., C. Seiffert, G. Escarguel. 2000. Neuer Nager aus Messel - Prachtstueck des "Urschlaefers". Spektrum der Wissenschaft (= German Edition of "American Scientific"), August 8, 2000: 12-13.

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