Two little dormice

13 Interesting Facts About Dormice (Rodents)

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Dormice are small rodents that are known for their long periods of hibernation. Here are 13 fascinating facts about these sleepy creatures:

Introduction

Dormice are part of the Gliridae family, which contains 29 species of rodents. They are found throughout Europe, Africa and Asia living primarily in wooded habitats.

These tiny animals have captivated people’s imagination for centuries with their long hibernation periods where they can sleep up to 11 months out of the year!

Below we’ll explore more about their appearance, behavior, habitat, and the myths and legends that surround dormice. Understanding more about these creatures gives us insight into the natural world.

Facts About Dormice

1. They have bushy tails

Most dormice species have furry tails equal to or longer than their actual bodies. The tails help dormice with balance and provide insulation when they curl up.

2. Dormice make nests out of plant materials

Dormice don’t dig burrows for shelter. Instead, they build intricate nests out of grasses, leaves, moss and strips of bark wedged between tree branches or shrubs. Their nests provide insulation and protection.

3. They eat fruits, nuts, insects and pollen

Dormice are omnivorous but prefer to eat fruits, nuts, berries, flowers, and insects. They occasionally eat small vertebrates like young birds. Dormice don’t need to drink water if their food has enough moisture.

4. Most species hibernate

Hibernation allows dormice to survive seasons when food is scarce. Before hibernation, they nearly double their weight eating food to store fat reserves. Their heart rate and metabolism slow down and they enter a deep sleep.

5. Hibernation periods are extremely long for some species

The edible dormouse and garden dormouse hibernate on average 8-11 months out of the year – longer than any other mammal! Other dormice species, like the forest dormouse, hibernate 4-6 months.

6. They make high-pitched squeaks

Dormice communicate through a series of high-frequency squeaks. They likely developed this to talk without attracting predators. Their squeaks sound like a bird chirping.

7. Most species are nocturnal

Dormice avoid daytime predators by being nocturnal. They are most active running through trees and foraging at night. The edible dormouse is an exception – it is active during the day.

8. They have good climbing skills

Dormice have strong limbs and long digits with sharp claws that make them agile climbers. Their grasping hands and feet allow them to climb vertically up trees and hang upside down from branches.

9. Predators target dormice

When they aren’t hibernating, dormice are vulnerable to attack. Birds of prey like owls hunt dormice. Mammals including foxes, pine martens, wildcats and weasels also eat them.

10. Romans considered them a delicacy

Ancient Romans fattened dormice up with walnuts then cooked them in honey or poppy seeds for a sweet, succulent dish called “glires“. They were served on special occasions.

11. They appear in folklore and superstition

In European folklore, a dormouse found in a girl’s pocket meant a hand in marriage. Killing a dormouse was considered terribly unlucky. Dormice were also used in magic and witchcraft.

12. Their numbers are declining

Habitat loss from development, climate change, and predators have caused decreased dormice populations. Several species like the garden dormouse are now endangered.

13. The word “dormouse” refers to their sleep habits

The name dormouse comes from the French “dormir” meaning “to sleep”. This refers to their exceptionally long hibernation periods.

Type of DormouseAverage Hibernation Length
Edible Dormouse8-11 months
Garden Dormouse8-11 months
Forest Dormouse4-6 months

Conclusion

While dormice may seem like sleepy, docile creatures, they have unique survival abilities with their long hibernation periods, nest building skills, adaptations for climbing and more.

These small rodents give us a fascinating look at the natural world. Understanding dormice better can help us protect vital habitats so these creatures can thrive for generations to come.

Which fact about dormice did you find most interesting? Their long hibernation periods? Their appearance in ancient Roman cuisine? Or maybe their place in European folk tales? Let me know in the comments!


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