Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The garden dormouse, which is thought to be most active at night, is reported to move with agility in trees, but can also often be found on the ground (2). It shelters and sleeps in a wide variety of places, from hollow trees and branches (2), to cracks in stones walls and houses (4). Large numbers of this dormouse may be found living close to each other, sharing both sleeping and feeding sites, and except during the mating season, there is no fighting (2). One of the most carnivorous of dormice, this species feeds on insects, small rodents and young birds, as well as nuts and fruit (2). The proportions of these foods in the diet vary depending on the season; for example, in summer, the garden dormouse eats mainly insects and fruit, while in autumn, the diet consists primarily of fruit. This reduction in protein in the diet helps induce sleep in preparation for hibernation, which, in Europe, usually takes place between October and April (3). Following the dormouse's emergence from hibernation, it will begin to look for a mate. Female garden dormice are known to use whistles to attract a male (3). Shortly before giving birth, the female will build a nest, usually a globular structure made of grass, leaves and moss, and lined with hairs and feathers, situated in a hole in a tree or a crook of a branch (3). The female will mark the area with her scent and defend the nest (3), and after a gestation period of 22 to 28 days, a litter of two to eight young are born (2). The tiny young open their eyes only after 21 days, but are weaned by the age of four weeks (2).
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Description

Like other dormice, the garden dormouse is an agile rodent, known for its ability to accumulate fat and hibernate for long periods (3). The short fur is shades of grey and brown on the upperparts and creamy or white on the underparts, and the face usually bears black markings. The tail is cinnamon-brown near the body, black towards the end, and has a white, tufty tip (2). The garden dormouse has the remarkable ability to detach its tail from its body, if seized by a predator (3). The short, curved claws and cushion-like covering of each foot makes this species, like other dormice, an adept climber (3), and its relatively large ears and eyes hint at its well-developed sense of hearing and ability to vocalise (3).
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Distribution

Range Description

Eliomys quercinus is endemic to Europe, where it was historically widespread from Portugal in the west to the Urals (Russia) in the east. It is now largely confined to western Europe, including numerous Mediterranean islands, with eastern populations having become scattered and fragmented. The focus of the species range in the region is in the west. It is a polytypic species, and some insular populations are distinctive forms (e.g., Balearic Islands). Its altitudinal range is from sea level to 2,000 m.
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Geographic Range

Eliomys quercinus is found throughout Europe to Asia to North Africa. It is also found in Finland. Garden dormice were introduced into Britian by the Romans in the first century, probably for culinary uses.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Introduced , Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native )

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th Edition. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Range

The range of this European dormouse used to extend from Portugal, east to the Ural Mountains in Russia (4). Today, it is found primarily in western Europe, including many islands in the Mediterranean, and only a few scattered populations remain in the east (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Eliomys quercinus has a body length of 100 to 175 mm. The tail length is 90 to 135 mm, and the body mass is from 45 to 120 g. Eliomys quercinus has a long, bushy tail. The tails of European dormice have brown, black and white coloration on them. Asian and African specimens have black and white tails. Garden dormice have short fur except for the tail. The fur on the upper surface of dormice may be any color of gray or brown. The underside may show white or cream coloration. There are black markings on the face of garden dormice. This characteristic is used to distinguish this species from other species such as hazel dormice. The black stripe goes from the nose to behind the ear. There are eight mammae on female E. quercinus.

Range mass: 45 to 120 g.

Range length: 190 to 310 mm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Burton, D., R. Burton. 1969. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 5. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation..
  • Lawlor, T. 1974. Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals. Eureka, CA: Eureka Printing Company.
  • van den Brink, F. 1968. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britian and Europe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Type Information

Type for Eliomys quercinus
Catalog Number: USNM 103030
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): D. Coolidge
Year Collected: 1900
Locality: Sorrento, near Naples, Napoli Province, Campania, Italy, Europe
  • Type: Miller, G. S. 1901 Apr 25. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 14: 39.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Its main habitat is woodland (coniferous, deciduous, and mixed), although it is sometimes found in orchards and gardens. It is less arboreal than some other dormice, and is often found on the ground in rocky areas, cracks in stone walls, and even in houses (Le Louarn and Spitz 1974, Vaterlaus 1998, Filippucci 1999, Spitzenberger 2002, Bertolino 2006).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The misleadingly-named garden dormouse actually primarily inhabits woodland, from sea level up to an altitude of 2,000 metres (4). Occasionally it can be found in gardens and orchards (4), as well as swamps, cultivated fields and rocky areas (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Garden dormice are more carnivorous than any other dormice species, including other small mammals, insects, snails and baby birds. Other foods include fruit, hazel nuts, chestnuts, acorns, pine seeds, bark, and eggs.

Garden dormice have a simple digestive tract, suggesting they do not eat much cellulose.

Garden dormice cache food in burrows.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; eggs; insects

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Eliomys quercinus may displace birds when they take over the nest site to use it. They may also affect bird populations by eating chicks.

These animals are likely to be important in local food webs, acting both as predators and prey to a variety of other animals, thereby affecting their populations.

Because E. quercinus caches food, it probably plays some role in dispersing seeds.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

  • Walker, E. 1964. Mammals of the World, Volume 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
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Predation

A variety of animals prey upon dormice. Among these are mustelids, crows, magpies, and foxes. Peak mortality occurs during hibernation, when up to four out of five are captured by burrow predators.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Eliomys quercinus is prey of:
Sciurognathi
Mustela
Mustela erminea
Vulpes vulpes
Meles meles

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Eliomys quercinus preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Insecta
Aves
Mammalia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Eliomys quercinus communicate using vocalizations, including whistles, growls, or snores. They are reported to be very noisy animals.

In addition to vocal communication, it is likely that there are some forms of tactile communication, between mothers and their young, between mates, and possibly within social groups.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Cycle

Development

Young garden dormice are born naked and blind (Burton, 1969). The altricial young open their eyes at three weeks of age (Nowak, 1991).

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of E. quercinus can reach five and a half years in captivity. No information is available for species in the wild.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.5 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 5.5 years (captivity) Observations: One captive animal lived to the age of 5.5 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Information on the mating system of these animals is not available.

The polyestrus E. quercinus has a breeding season from May to October in areas of Europe and Morocco. In other parts of Europe the breeding season has peaks in March to May, and in August to October. The first breeding episode of the season begins shortly after emergence from hibernation. Females enter heat every 10 days during the breeding season.

A litter consists of two to eight offspring, which are born after a gestation period of 22 to 28 days. Young E. quercinus are born in a nest which is larger than the sleeping nests typical of this species. There is usually only one litter born to a female each year.

Eliomys quercinus form a vaginal plug after mating.

Breeding interval: A female may breed once or twice annually.

Breeding season: Copulations can occur from May to October, with heats every 10 days.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 8.

Average number of offspring: 4.50.

Range gestation period: 22 to 28 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average number of offspring: 5.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
365 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

As in all mammals, females care for the young, providing them with milk and shelter until they are independent. Specifics on the parental behavior of this species are lacking, so it is not know whether males interact with their offspring.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Asdell, S. 1964. Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction, 2nd Edition. Ithaca, N.Y: Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press.
  • Burton, D., R. Burton. 1969. The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 5. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation..
  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th Edition. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eliomys quercinus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Bertolino, S., Amori, G., Henttonen, H., Zagorodnyuk, I., Zima, J., Juškaitis, R., Meinig, H. & Kryštufek, B.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Populations in the east have decreased significantly over the last 20-30 years, and the species may have disappeared from as much as 50% of its former range during the last 30 years. However, there is little information on the current decline rate. Since the western populations remain stable, the overall reduction over the last 10 years is almost certainly less than 30% (the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A). However, as the species is suffering significant ongoing decline, the cause of which is not understood, it is listed as Near Threatened. The species has declined more than almost any other rodent in Europe.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
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Garden dormice have an IUCN status of 'Vulnerable'. E. quercinus is endangered in parts of Europe and Finland due to deforestation in these areas.

US Federal List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Population

Population
Population declines, range contractions and local extinctions have occurred in central, eastern and southern Europe over the last few decades. Some island populations are declining. The species is now rare in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (probably extinct: Juškaitis 2003), east Germany and the Czech Republic (Andera 1994) and adjacent Austria (Spitzenberger 2002), and has disappeared completely from the Slovakian part of the Carpathians and from the Croatian mainland. The last record in Romania is over 20 years old (I. Coroiu pers. comm. 2006). In the south of Spain, where it was formerly abundant and expanding, it is now rare (Ruiz and Roman 1999, Palomo and Gisbert 2002). In Portugal a decline in population is possible, although causes and magnitude of any such reduction are unknown (Cabral et al. 2005). Many of the declines were over the last 50 years or so, with some of the declines more recently recorded. The species may have been lost from over half of the range in the last 30 years (S. Bertolino pers. comm. 2006). In parts of its range where it is more abundant, population density is usually less than 10 individuals per hectare, though exceptionally densities of 30-50 individuals per hectare have been recorded (Filippucci 1999).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
It has been suggested that it is threatened in some areas (especially Corsica) by direct competition with the brown rat Rattus norvegicus (Macdonald and Barrett 1993). The populations from Germany eastwards are declining (H. Meinig pers. comm. 2006), but the reasons are not well known, although thought to be related to habitat changes. In some areas of orchards, the species is considered a pest.
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Populations of garden dormice in eastern Europe have declined significantly over the last 30 years, and may now inhabit less than 50 percent of its former range (4). The cause of these declines are not fully understood, but is believed to be due to changes in, and destruction of, suitable habitat (2) (4). Luckily, populations in western Europe appear to be stable, although it has been suggested that competition with the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) threatens populations in some areas, such as Corsica (4). In addition, in some areas of orchards, this fruit-eating rodent is considered a pest (4).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention. The species is found in many protected areas. There is a need to determine why the populations in the eastern part of the range are in decline, to monitor these populations, and to identify and implement appropriate conservation measures.
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Conservation

The garden dormouse is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention, meaning that this species is protected, but may be subject to some exploitation if in accordance with certain regulations (5). The garden dormouse is also offered some protection by its occurrence in a number of protected areas (4). However, if this species' future is to be ensured, the reasons why populations in eastern Europe are in decline must be determined, and appropriate conservation measures implemented (4).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Eliomys quercinus is a pest in fruit orchards in Europe.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eliomys quercinus were used for food in Britain during the Roman Empire, as indicated by archeological evidence.

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Garden dormouse

The garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) is a rodent in the dormouse family.

Features[edit]

Garden dormice are typically 10 to 15 cm (3.9 to 5.9 in) in length, with the tail adding an additional 8 to 14.5 cm (3.1 to 5.7 in). They weigh 60 to 140 g (2.1 to 4.9 oz). The coat is gray or brown, with a white underside. The garden dormouse can be recognized by black eye markings, relatively large ears, short hair, and a white tassel at the end of the tail.

Range and habitat[edit]

In spite of its name, the garden dormouse's main habitat is the forest, though it can also be found in fruit-growing regions. It is particularly common in southern Europe, but its range extends into the north. Garden dormice are often found in the Alps, the Bavarian Forest, and the Ore Mountains.

The species is also present in northern Germany, but that population is apparently not capable of large-scale reproduction. Nearby, in the Netherlands, it is nearly extinct: in 2007, researchers reported finding only 9 animals in two woods in the province of Limburg, where it used to be common. They suggested this is a result of the landscape becoming increasingly monotonous, and due to climate change, which they said interrupts hibernation.[2]

Way of life[edit]

A garden dormouse close up

Garden dormice are primarily nocturnal, sleeping in spherical nests in trees during the day. At night, they look for food, mainly eating larger insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, and snails, eggs, young nestlings, small rodents, and spiders, as well as berries, fruit, and nuts, such as acorns and beechnuts. While omnivorous, the diet of dormice contains slightly more animal protein than vegetation.

The mating period lasts from April to June. During this time, the female indicates her readiness to mate by squeaking loudly. The young are usually born in litters of three to seven, after a gestation period of 23 days. Blind and naked at birth, they open their eyes after about 18 days, and are nursed until they are one month old. They become independent at two months of age, but do not reach sexual maturity until the next year. They have a life expectancy of about five years.

It is not unusual for a garden dormouse to eat one of its unfortunate rivals during the mating season. Cannibalism is also observed occasionally when the animal is coming out of hibernation.

Classification[edit]

On the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, all of the several subspecies of garden dormouse are very rare. These are the Sardinian garden dormouse (E. q. sardus), the Sicilian garden dormouse (E. q. dichrurus), the Liparian garden dormouse (E. q. liparensis), the Balearic garden dormouse (E. q. gymnesicus) and the Formentera Island garden dormouse (E. q. ophiusae), which is notable for its larger size and all black tail.[3] The populations of western Asia and north Africa, on the other hand, have recently been separated into their own species Eliomys melanurus.

References[edit]

  1. ^ S. Bertolino, G. Amori, H. Henttonen, I. Zagorodnyuk, J. Zima, R. Juškaitis, H. Meinig & B. Kryštufek, (2008). "Eliomys quercinus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 3.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Eikelmuis, ook wel slaapmuis of fruitdief genoemd, bijna uitgestorven", Trouw (in Dutch), September 19, 2007: 7 
  3. ^ Purroy, F. J. & Varela, J. M. (2003) Guía de los Mamíferos de España. Península, Baleares y Canarias. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
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