Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The fat dormouse is nocturnal, and lives in groups with related individuals (4). Adapted for climbing and leaping through the tree canopy (3), this species feeds on nuts, fruit, bark and fungi as well as animal matter including insects, bird eggs and even small birds (4). The breeding season occurs between June and August, during this time, fighting between males may occur over access to females (3). Females attract males to mate with them by rubbing their anal area along the ground. This produces an odour trail, which the male sniffs and scent-marks (5). Whistling sounds also indicate readiness to mate. The male will pursue the female for a while; she may rebuff him aggressively, but when he gives up she often follows him, and mating occurs (5). Males usually leave the female after mating takes place in order to find more potential mates (5). Females produce one litter a year, consisting of 2-9 young (4), typically in a nest inside a hollow tree (3), lined with grass, feathers and hairs (5). The young are born blind, naked and helpless, and are weaned by about 4 weeks of age (3). Mother and offspring seem to learn to recognise each other by exchanging saliva (7). The fat dormouse hibernates underground or in grass-lined hollows in trees from October to April (4). Towards the end of summer they begin to construct tunnels in the ground; they enter these tunnels to hibernate as soon as the weather begins to get cold, and groups of fat dormice have been found hibernating together (5).
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Description

The fat, or edible dormouse was introduced to Britain in 1902 (3). This is a fairly large dormouse, with a very bushy tail and short, thick silvery grey fur which is white or yellowish-white underneath (3); overall it has a somewhat squirrel-like appearance (2). The hands and feet have hard pads, which are adaptations for climbing (3). The name 'edible' dormouse arose as the Romans used to eat them as a delicacy (2); the alternative name of 'fat' dormouse refers to the appearance of this species before it goes into hibernation (4). Furthermore, the Romans used to fatten these rodents on chestnuts and acorns inside clay pots called 'glisaries' or enclosures prior to eating them (6).
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Distribution

Range Description

Glis glis has a global distribution that extends across Europe and through northern Turkey to the Caucasus, northern Iran and Turkmenistan. In the Mediterranean, it occurs from northern Spain through central and eastern Europe, as far as Latvia in the north and Italy and the Balkan Peninsula in the south (Kryštufek 1999). It is found on a number of Mediterranean islands, but the population in the British Isles is the result of an introduction in 1902 (Kryštufek 1999, Battersby 2005). It is recorded from sea level to 2,000 m.
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Geographic Range

Glis glis is a European species. It occurs from France and northern Spain to the Volga River and northern Iran. Glis glis also occurs on the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Crete, and Corfu. (Nowak 1991)

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Range

In Great Britain, this dormouse has a small distribution that is restricted to the Chiltern Hills, but its range is expanding. It occurs throughout central Europe (4), but has declined in many areas and is uncommon (3).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The approximate length of the head-body is 14-20 cm. They have a gray back and head with dark, narrow rings around the eyes. The underparts are white or yellowish. Their pelage is short, soft, and thick. These animals are squirrel-like with large and rounded ears, small eyes, and a long bushy tail (11-19 cm). The hands and feet are both equipped with hard pads for use in climbing. The four digits of the forefeet and the five digits of the hindfeet have short, curved claws. Glis glis is sciurognathous and myomorphous. Dental formula: 1/1, 0/0, 1/1, 3/3. (Nowak 1991; Niethammer 1990; MacDonald 1984)

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is typically found in mature deciduous and mixed woodland, where it frequents the canopy, although it also occurs in maquis and shrubland on rocky areas along the Mediterranean coast. Man-made habitats such as gardens and orchards are sometimes used, and the species often enters buildings (Macdonald and Barrett 1993, Kryštufek 1999).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Glis glis inhabits inhabits deciduous or mixed forests and fruit orchards in both the lowlands and mountains. The most common site for daily shelter is the hollow of trees. The hollows may be lined with grass or other vegetation. Glis glis also shelters in crevices between rocks, burrows among tree roots, woodpecker holes, piles of mulch, attics, barns, and artificial nest boxes. (Nowak 1991)

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

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Inhabits mature broadleaved woodland, gardens, houses and orchards (4).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Glis glis is omnivorous. It feeds mainly on seeds, leaves, buds, nuts, berries, acorns, and soft fruits. They eat insects occasionally and have been known to eat small birds. (Niethammer 1990; Nowak 1991)

Animal Foods: birds; insects

Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
8.7 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
9.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 8.7 years (captivity) Observations: One animal lived 8.7 years in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Glis glis have one litter a year. The litter can consist of 1-11 individuals, but usually falls in the range of 4-6 offspring. Their gestation period is 30-32 days and the young weigh 1-2 g at birth. G. glis is usually weaned at 5-6 weeks and reaches maturity after 1-2 years. To attract males to mate, the females will drag their anal region across the ground to produce an odor marking. These trails are eagerly sniffed by the males, which then leave their marks on top. Also, edible dormice can make a whistling sounds at short intervals over long periods, which announce their willingness to mate. The wanting male pursues the female and makes a fine chirping sound with its mouth closed. At first, the female runs away or defends itself, purring and rattling its teeth and beating its paws. It may even jump the male and bite it. These acts are believed to be play because when the male gives up the female will follow it.

After mating, the female spends more time bringing nesting material into the den and becomes very sensitive to interference. It uses hairs and feathers as lining material. The nests are usually off the ground, in a hole in a tree for example. The young of G. glis exit the womb with the hind end first. The offspring are quite undeveloped at birth. The external ears unfold after 5 days; the auditory canal opens after 12 days; the eyelids separate after 21 days; the lower rodent teeth come through after 13 days while the upper ones come through after 2o days.

Mating season for G. glis is usually in July. The young are born around August, which gives about two months of growing time before they have to hibernate at the end of October.

(Niethammer 1990; MacDonald 1984)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Glis glis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 6 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGTTGATTCTTTTCAACAAATCACAAAGACATTGGCACGCTATATCTACTATTTGGTGCTTGAGCCGGAATAGTTGGTACAGCCTTAAGTCTCTTAATCCGTGCTGAACTAGGCCAACCCGGAGCACTACTGGGTGAT---GATCAAATCTATAACGTTATTGTCACAGCCCATGCATTTGTCATAATTTTCTTTATAGTTATACCAATTATGATTGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGATTAGTTCCTTTAATAATTGGAGCCCCTGATATAGCGTTCCCACGAATAAATAATATAAGCCTCTGACTCCTTCCACCTTCCTTTCTTCTTCTCTCAGCCTCCTCTATAGTAGAAGCAGGGGCAGGTACAGGTTGAACTGTATATCCCCCTCTTGCAGGAAATTTAGCTCACGCAGGAGCCTCTGTTGACTTAACATTTTTTTCACTTCATCTAGCAGGGAGCGCCTCAATTTTAGGTGCCATTAATTTTATCACAACAATTATTAATATAAAACCTCCTGCAATATCTCAATATCAAACTCCATTATTCGTATGGTCAGTATTAATTACTGCTGTCTTAATTATTCTATCTCTTCCAGTACTAGCAGCAGGTATTACTATATTACTAACAGACCGTAATCTCAATACTACCTTTCTTTACCCTGCTGGAGGAGGAGACCCTATTTTATACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTTGGTCACCCCGAAGTATATATTCTACTTTTTACCTGGTTTGGAATTATTTCACATCGGACCACCTATTATTCAGGAAAAAAAGAACCCTTCGGATATATAGGCATGGTAGGAGCCATAATATCCATTGGATTCCTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCTCACCATATATTTACCGTAGGATTAGATGTAGATACTCGAG
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Glis glis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Amori, G., Hutterer, R., Kryštufek, B., Yigit, N., Mitsain, G., Muñoz, L.J.P, Meinig, H. & Juškaitis, R.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
A common and widespread species. Declines are occurring in the northernmost part of the range, but in the southern part it is abundant and considered a pest species. Consequently it is assessed as Least Concern.
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Glis glis is still rather common in Europe, occurring about 1 animal per hectare to 30 animals per hectare. Their numbers have decreased as a result of habitat destruction. (Niethammer 1990)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status

Classified as Lower Risk/ near threatened by the IUCN Red List 2002 (3).
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Population

Population
In northern parts of its range it is scarce and may be declining, whereas in southern parts of its range it is sufficiently abundant to be considered an agricultural pest in years of high population density. In central Europe, typical population densities may be c.5 individuals per hectare, although densities of 20-22 individuals per hectare have been recorded (Kryštufek 1999).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
In parts of its range, including Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy, there is a tradition of hunting this species. In the past, it was a source of meat, fat, and skins for subsistence and trade, but today it is hunted recreationally (Kryštufek 1999). The species is protected in Italy, but is sometimes illegally hunted (G. Amori pers. comm. 2006). In northeastern Europe, cutting of oak forests is a threat (Juškaitis 2003).
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This introduced species is considered to be a pest of orchards and forestry, as it can damage fruit crops and its habit of bark stripping is very destructive (4). In houses they can cause serious problems by chewing through wires and wood. They are therefore controlled in some areas (4). They have declined in many parts of the European range as a result of deforestation (3).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is listed on Appenix III of the Bern Convention. It occurs in protected areas throught its range.
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Conservation

In Great Britain there is no conservation action in place for this non-native mammal (4).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In some areas Glis glis is considered very harmful to the production of fruit and wine. G. glis has been known to do considerable damage to trees and is considered a nuisance. (Hoodless 1993; Nowak 1991)

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Glis glis is known for its luxuriant fur. In ancient Rome, its meat was considered a delicacy. In some parts of Europe, the meat of G. glis is still considered a gourmet dish. (Nowak 1991)

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Wikipedia

Edible dormouse

The edible dormouse or fat dormouse (Glis glis) is a large dormouse and the only living species in the genus Glis.[3]

Description[edit]

Edible dormouse climbing (view high res)

The edible dormouse is the largest of all dormice, being around 14 to 19 centimetres (5.5 to 7.5 in) in head-body length, plus a 11 to 13 centimetres (4.3 to 5.1 in) tail. It normally weighs from 120 to 150 grams (4.2 to 5.3 oz), but may almost double in weight immediately prior to hibernation. It has a generally squirrel-like body, with small ears, short legs, and large feet. Its fur is grey to greyish-brown in colour over most of the body Underparts and the inner surface of legs are white to pale buff and the line of demarcation is rather well defined.[4] Unlike most other dormice, there are no dark markings on the face, aside from faint rings around the eyes. The tail is long and bushy, with fur slightly darker than that on the body. Front feet have 4 digits and their hind feet have 5. The soles of their feet are naked. Females have from four to six pairs of teats.[4] .[4] The edible dormouse is capable of limited autotomy; if another animal grasps the tail, the skin breaks easily and slides off the underlying bone, allowing the dormouse to escape. The exposed vertebrae then break off and the wound heals over, forming a fresh brush of hair.[4]

Distribution[edit]

The edible dormouse is found throughout much of western Europe. Many[who?] believe that the edible dormouse is native to England; it is not. The population within England is limited to the south east side of the Chiltern Hills. Close to England, Germany has a small population of edible dormice within its borders, ranging from two to six individuals per hectare.[5] Sicily, in the southern region of Italy, also has a small population of the dormouse today. However, there has been support to show that the kin selection of the dormouse[clarification needed] came from north east Italy.[6] It is rather more sparsely distributed through central Europe and the Balkans, but can be found as far north-east as the upper Volga River. Close to the Volga River, there were small groups of the species found at the Zhiguli Mountains, in Russia.[7] It is also found on a number of Mediterranean and Baltic islands, including Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and Crete. Beyond Europe, it is found in scattered populations throughout Thrace, located on the southeastern tip of the Balkan peninsula. In this region, two subspecies of the edible dormouse are found, G. g. glis and G. g. orientalis. In northern Anatolia, there is a different subspecies, G. g pindicus[8] They are also found in the Caucasus region, and along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea.[4]

It was accidentally introduced to the town of Tring in England through an escape from Lionel Walter Rothschild's private collection in 1902.[9] As a result, the British edible dormouse population, now 10,000 strong,[10] is concentrated in a 200-square-mile (520 km2) triangle between Beaconsfield, Aylesbury and Luton.[11]

Though this animal is regarded as a pest by some,[9] in the United Kingdom the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits certain methods of killing and taking it, and removing them may require a licence.[10]

Ecology and habitat[edit]

Edible dormice inhabit deciduous forests dominated by oak and beech, from sea level to the upper limits of such forests at 1,500 to 2,000 metres (4,900 to 6,600 ft). They prefer dense forests with rocky cliffs and caves, but may be found in maquis vegetation, orchards, and urban margins. They have frequently been reported from caves as deep as 400 metres (1,300 ft), where they can shelter from predators.[4]

Population densities range from 2 to 22 individuals per hectare.[12] Females inhabit only very small home ranges, of 0.15 to 0.76 hectares (0.37 to 1.88 acres), but males occupy much larger ranges of 0.8 to 7 hectares (2.0 to 17.3 acres), with several burrows.[13]

Edible dormice are primarily herbivorous, feeding mainly on berries, apples, and nuts. However, they are adaptable, and have also been reported to eat bark, leaves, flowers, invertebrates, and even eggs. Beech mast, which is rich in energy in protein, is an excellent source of food for young and lactating females.[4] Studies show that some dormice are found to have hair and ectoparasite remains in their stomachs, but this is mainly due to accidental ingestion during grooming.[14]

Edible dormice also consume large numbers of beech tree seeds. A single, large, seeding tree within the home range of a dormouse will produce enough resources to support the energy requirements of reproduction. The location and age of a beech tree will help dictate where a population of dormice will live, since older trees produce more seeds.[15]

When present in large numbers, they may cause damage to orchards and be considered a pest. Their primary predators include owls, foxes, pine martens, and wildcats.[4]

Behaviour[edit]

Edible dormouse

Edible dormice are nocturnal, spending the day in nests taken from birds, or located in hollow trees or similar shelter. They are good climbers, and spend most of their time in the trees, although they are relatively poor jumpers. The dormouse uses sticky secretions of plantar glands when they are climbing on smooth surfaces to prevent them from falling.[4] They generally like to stay in the forest and avoid open areas to any extent.[12] They are not generally social animals, although small groups of closely related adults have occasionally been reported.[16] Many edible dormouse have communal nesting areas where many mothers will take care of all of their young together.[4]

Communication is partly by sound, with the animals making various squeaks or snuffling sounds, and partly by scent. They leave scent trails from scent glands on feet as well as glands at the top of their tail by its anus. They rub their anal region on the ground and places they walk, so that traces of the secretion will be left for other dormice,[4] especially during periods of sexual activity. Edible dormice are active during a 6 month period and go into hibernation[12] from roughly October to May, depending on local climatic conditions. They are mostly active in the summer time and research has shown they are active on average 202 minute in a 24 hour day, mostly at night.[7] They prepare a den in soft soil or hidden in a cave, and rely on fat reserves to survive through the winter. During hibernation, metabolic rate and body temperature fall dramatically, and the animal may cease breathing altogether for periods of up to an hour.[17]

They have adapted well to the presence of man and will now frequently hibernate in insulated attics and even dark shelves in cupboards, particularly if there are soft materials on the shelf to make a nest. They can be regarded as a pest in this situation due to the fire risk from gnawed electrical cables and fouling from their faeces. In recent years they have become resistant to many rodicides.[citation needed] In the wild most edible dormice hibernate for three winters, and then die in the fourth while hibernating, when their cheek teeth are worn out to a degree that prevents normal mastication of food.[18]

Reproduction[edit]

The breeding season is from late June to mid August, however, both male and female dormice do not produce every year.[19] Variation in food resources strongly influences reproduction because reproduction is tightly linked to the availability of energy-rich seeds.[20] Therefore, edible dormice breed during the phase of high food availability. Females are able to produce additional young if amino acid rich foods like inflorescences, unripe seeds and (or) larval insects, which also increase their numbers by eating the same enriched plant food, are available.[14] An abundance of energy-rich seeds allows newborn dormice to increase their body fat to prepare for their first hibernation.[20] Females will reach sexual maturity at 351–380 days old and males will significantly lower their body mass during mating season.[21]

Males are non-territorial, and may visit the territories of several nearby females to mate, becoming aggressive to any other males they encounter. The male attracts a female by squeaking, then conducts a circular courtship dance before mounting her. During mating season, males lower their body mass and use their body fat reserves to help fuel the energetic costs of reproduction.[21]

Gestation lasts from 20–31 days, and results in the birth of anything up to eleven young, although four or five is more typical.[4] They develop their fur by 16 days, and open their eyes after around 3 weeks. They begin to leave the nest after around 30 days, and are sexually mature by the time they complete their second hibernation.[4] Compared with similarly sized mammals, they have an unusually long lifespan, and have been reported to live up to twelve years in the wild.[22]

Evolution[edit]

Although the edible dormouse is the only living member of its genus, a number of fossil species are also known. The genus Glis first originated in the middle Oligocene, although it did not become common until the Pliocene. By the Pleistocene, only one species, Glis sackdillingensis, is known to have survived, and this is likely the ancestor of the modern species, which first appeared in the early to mid-Pleistocene.[4]

Edible dormice that have been isolated on oceanic islands are a prime example of insular gigantism, in which small animals in isolated locations become larger over the course of many generations.[18] Although it is not known why, the number of teats on a female edible dormouse across regions of Europe varies. For example, those in Italy have two to seven, while those in Lithuania have three to six.[23]

Cuisine[edit]

Edible dormouse in a cellar

The edible dormouse was farmed and eaten by the ancient Romans and the Etruscans (usually as a snack), hence the word edible in its name. The Romans would catch the dormice from the wild in autumn when it was fattest.[24] The dormice were kept and raised either in large pits or (in less spacious urban surroundings) in terra cotta containers, the gliraria,[25] something like contemporary hamster cages. They fed these captive dormice walnuts, chestnuts, and acorns for fattening. The dormice were served by either roasting them and dipping them in honey or stuffing them with a mixture of pork, pine nuts, and other flavorings.[24] It was however very important to upper-class Romans that the dormice be separated from other products of the hunt, like the large game, for presentation purposes.[26]

To this day, wild edible dormice are consumed in Slovenia, where they are considered a rare delicacy and dormouse trapping an ethnic tradition. They use several methods of trapping. The first used were the hollow tree trapping method and the flat stone trapping method. By the 17th century the peasant trappers had invented the first self-triggering traps, usually made out of different kinds of wood. In the 19th century traps made from iron and steel were introduced. The trappers used many different types of bait to entice the dormice. These different types of bait ranged from pieces of fruit to bacon soaked in brandy. During the prime season a trapper could catch between 200 and 400 dormice depending largely on what kind of trap they were using. The people of Slovenia did not just catch the dormice for their meat.[27] Use of dormice for food and fur and of dormouse fat as a medicament is documented there since the 13th century. Seasonal dormice feasts were welcome protein supplements for the impoverished peasantry.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amori, G. et al. (2010). Glis glis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  2. ^ Carlo Violani & Bruno Zava (1995). "Carolus Linnaeus and the edible dormouse" (PDF). Hystrix 6 (1–2): 109–115. doi:10.4404/hystrix-6.1-2-4020. 
  3. ^ Holden, M. E. (2005). "Family Gliridae". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 841. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Kryštufek, B. (2010). "Glis glis (Rodentia: Gliridae)". Mammalian Species 42 (1): 195–206. doi:10.1644/865.1. 
  5. ^ Burgess, M., Morris, P. and Bright, P. (2003). "Population Dynamics of the Edible Dormouse (Glis glis) in England". Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 49. Suppl. I: 27–31. 
  6. ^ Milazzo, A.; Faletta, W.; Sarà, M. (2003). "Habitat Selection of Fat Dormouse (Glis glis italicus) in Deciduous Woodlands of Sicily". Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. Suppl. I: 117–124. 
  7. ^ a b Ivashkina, Victoria (2006). "Abundance and Activity of the Edible Dormouse Glis glis L. in the Zhiguli Mountains, Russia, Middle Volga Region". Polish journal of ecology 54 (3): 337–344. 
  8. ^ Selçuk, Senem Esin; Reyhan Çolak; Gül Olgun Karacan; Ercüment Çolak (2011). "Population Structure of Edible Dormouse, Glis glis (Linnaeus, 1766) in Turkey, Inferred from RaPD-PcR". Acta Zoologica Bulgarica: 77–83. 
  9. ^ a b Richard Creasey (2006-10-23). "Invasion of the Glis glis". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  10. ^ a b "Edible Dormice (Glis glis)". Natural England. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  11. ^ "The Glis glis Around Amersham." Amersham - News, Views and Information. 3 October 2007
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