The family Gliridae contains 28 species in 9 genera. It can be divided into 3 subfamilies: Graphiurinae (Graphiurus); Leithiinae (Chaetocauda, Dryomys, Eliomys, Muscardinus, Myomimus, and Selevinia); and Glirinae (Glirulus and Glis) (Wilson and Reeder 2005).
The family Gliridae is smaller than it was in the past. More than 30 glirid genera have become extinct since the Eocene (Daams and De Bruijn 1995).
- Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Daams, R., H. De Bruijn. 1995. A classification of the Gliridae (Rodentia) on the basis of dental morphology. Proceedings of II Conference on Dormice. Hystrix., 6: 1-50.
Gliridae is an Old World family. Its members are found in sub-saharan Africa, in Europe north to southern Scandinavia, and in Asia east to southern China and Japan (Nowak 1999; Vaughan et al. 2000).
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native )
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, v. 2. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Stamford, CT: Thomson Learning, Inc..
Glirids are small to medium sized rodents, up to about 190 mm in head-body length. They resemble squirrels or chipmunks, with compact bodies and bushy tails (except members of the genera Selevinia and Myomimus, which have sparsely-furred tails). The limbs are relatively short; the feet are broad; and the toes are tipped with short, curved claws. Glirids have four functional digits on their forefeet and five on their hindfeet. Their bodies are covered with thick, soft fur. Some species have distinctive black facial markings. Most are good climbers, and arboreal species have well-developed toe pads.
Members of this family are myomorphous, but they differ somewhat from the typical myomorph arrangement of the masseter. Their skulls have an enlarged infraorbital foramen through which passes a slip of the medial masseter, as in other myomorphs, but the zygomatic plate is not as strongly developed as in most other members of the group. Nerves and blood vessels pass through this foramen as well as muscle; glirids lack the separate infraorbital foramen for the passage of nerves and blood vessels that is found in dipodids. The jugal of glirids is horizontal and does not meet the lacrimal. The mandibles are unusual in that the angular process is bent outwards, and in some genera it is perforated. Glirids are sciurognathus.
The dental formula of glirids is 1/1, 0/0, 0-1/0-1, 3/3 = 16 or 20. The incisors are sharply pointed. Cheekteeth are brachydont, and their occlusal surfaces are made up of a series of cusps and basins or parallel enamel ridges. Selevinia (which is sometimes placed in its own family) has very small teeth that scarcely erupt from the gums. These have a very simple occlusal pattern.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
- Storch, G. 1995. Affinities among living dormouse genera. Proceedings of II Conference on Dormice. Hystrix, 6(1-2): 51-62.
Glirids live in temperate, subtropical, and tropical forests as well as shrubland, savannahs, the banks of rivers and streams, rocky outcrops, gardens, and agricultural areas (Klingener 1984; Nowak 1999; Vaughan et al. 2000). Species in the genus Selvinia inhabit desert scrub (Nowak 1999).
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian
- Klingener, D. 1984. Gliroid and dipodoid rodents. Pp. 381-388 in S Anderson, J Jones, Jr., eds. Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Glirids are omnivores, feeding on fruit and nuts and also eating invertebrates, birds and their eggs, and sometimes other rodents. Selevinia feeds mostly on insects and spiders (Vaughan et al. 2000). Glirids that hibernate may store food over the winter and occasionally awake to consume it (Nowak 1999).
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods); herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore ); omnivore
Glirids function as primary, secondary, and higher-level consumers in the ecosystem, because they eat both plants and animals (Nowak 1999; Vaughan et al. 2000). They are also prey for owls (Bouvier and Bayle 1989; Vvano and Turini 1996).
Owls are the most frequent predators of glirids (Bouvier and Bayle 1989; Vvano and Turini 1996). When alarmed, glirids deliver a painful bite with their sharp incisors, they may also hiss, spit, and leap high into the air (Nowak 1999). Glirids have the ability to regenerate their tails if lost to predators (Vaughan et al. 2000).
- owls (Strigiformes)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
- Vvano, B., R. Turini. 1996. The occurrence of dormice (Rodentia, Myoxidae) in the diet of the barn-owl, Tyto alba (Scop., 1769): Data from NW Tuscany (Italy). Atti del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Trieste, 47: 149-158.
- Bouvier, M., P. Bayle. 1989. The diet of the tawny owl Strix aluco in the southern French Alps. Bievre, 10: 1-22.
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
These rodents have acute visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile senses. They are known to emit shrieks, whistles, and chirping noises that may function in communication. Members of the genus Glis scent-mark their territories with glandular secretions (Nowak 1999).
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Wild edible dormice (Glis glis) have been reported to live up to 12 years. Such a long lifespan may be attributed to the fact that entire populations skip breeding in poor mast years, allowing them to put more energy into survival (Ruf et al. 2006). Lifespans of four years have been reported for other wild dormice (Dryomys nitedula and Muscardinus avellanarius). Eliomys quercinus and Graphiurus murinus each live 5 to 6 years in captivity (Carey and Judge 2002).
- Carey, J., D. Judge. 2002. "Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish" (On-line). Accessed September 08, 2006 at http://www.demogr.mpg.de/.
Some glirid species (Graphiurus and Glis) are territorial and solitary except during the breeding season. Glis males have been observed fighting at this time, suggesting that they are polygynous. Nowak (1999) noted that while Glis males have been known to remain with females to help care for their young in captivity, in the wild males most likely leave to pursue other females. The mating system for most glirid genera has not been reported.
Mating System: polygynous
Glirids breed in the spring and summer, though wild populations of edible dormice (Glis glis) may skip reproduction altogether in years of low food abundance (Ruf et al. 2006). Females bear one to two litters per year, with 2 to 10 young per litter. The gestation period ranges from 21 to 30 days. Young open their eyes after about three weeks, and are weaned and independent after four to six weeks (Nowak 1999).
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Before giving birth, females construct soft, moss-lined nests in which to raise their offspring. Glirids are eutherian mammals; therefore, females provide their young with nutrients through the placenta and then through their milk. In captivity, male Glis have been known to help protect and clean their young, but this behavior has not been observed in the wild (Nowak 1999).
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, v. 2. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Ruf, T., J. Fietz, W. Schlund, C. Bieber. 2006. High survival in poor years: Life history tactics adapted to mast seeding in the edible dormouse. Ecology, 87(2): 372-381.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
|Specimen Records:||43||Public Records:||6|
|Specimens with Sequences:||22||Public Species:||1|
|Specimens with Barcodes:||22||Public BINs:||2|
|Species With Barcodes:||5|
Of the 29 glirid species, nine are listed as least concern, four are listed as lower risk, four are listed as vulnerable, and four: Chaetocauda sichuanensis, Glirulus japonicus, Myomimus setzeri, and Selevinia betpakdalaensis, are listed as endangered on the 2006 IUCN Red List. Not enough data is available to rank the remaining eight species. The most immediate threat to glirids is habitat destruction, though pesticide use and loss of genetic variation in isolated populations may also lead to declines (Nowak 1999).
- IUCN, 2006. "2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed September 08, 2006 at www.iucnredlist.org.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
These rodents may be detrimental to agriculture, raiding poultry yards and consuming crops such as plums, grapes, pears, and apples. They also sometimes make themselves a nuisance when they nest in houses (Nowak 1999).
Negative Impacts: crop pest; household pest
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Glis are trapped for their luxuriant fur as well as for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in parts of Europe (Nowak 1999).
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material
The dormouse is a rodent of the family Gliridae. (This family is also variously called Myoxidae or Muscardinidae by different taxonomists.) Dormice are mostly found in Europe, although some live in Africa and Asia. They are particularly known for their long periods of hibernation. Because only one species of dormouse is native to the British Isles, in everyday English usage dormouse usually refers to one species (the hazel dormouse) as well as to the family as a whole.
Dormice are small rodents, with body lengths between 6 and 19 cm (2.4 and 7.5 in), and weights between 15 and 180 g (0.53 and 6.3 oz). They are generally mouse-like in appearance, but with furred, rather than scaly tails. They are largely but not exclusively arboreal, agile, and well adapted to climbing. Most species are nocturnal. Dormice have an excellent sense of hearing, and signal each other with a variety of vocalisations.
Dormice are omnivorous, typically feeding on fruits, berries, flowers, nuts, and insects. They are unique among rodents in that they lack a cecum, a part of the gut used in other species to ferment vegetable matter. Their dental formula is similar to that of squirrels, although they often lack premolars:
Dormice breed once or occasionally twice a year, producing litters with an average of four young after a gestation period of 22–24 days. They can live for as long as five years. The young are born hairless and helpless, and their eyes do not open until about 18 days after birth. They typically become sexually mature after the end of their first hibernation. Dormice live in small family groups, with home ranges that vary widely between species, and depend on the availability of food.
One of the most notable characteristics of those dormice that live in temperate zones is hibernation. They can hibernate six months out of the year, or even longer if the weather remains sufficiently cool, sometimes waking for brief periods to eat food they had previously stored nearby. During the summer, they accumulate fat in their bodies, to nourish them through the hibernation period.
Their name is based on this trait; it comes from Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means "sleepy (one)"; the word was later altered by folk etymology to resemble the word "mouse". The sleepy behaviour of the dormouse character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland shows this was a familiar trait of dormice.
Relationship with humans
The edible dormouse was considered a delicacy in ancient Rome, either as a savoury appetizer or as a dessert (dipped in honey and poppy seeds). The Romans used a special kind of enclosure, a glirarium to rear dormice for the table. Dormice to this day are hunted and eaten in Slovenia. It is also considered a delicacy in several places in Croatia, namely Lika, and islands of Hvar and Brač. Dormouse fat was used by the Elizabethans to induce sleep.
Gliridae are one of the oldest extant rodent families, with a fossil record dating back to the early Eocene. As currently understood, they descended in Europe from early Paleogene ischyromyids such as Microparamys (Sparnacomys) chandoni. The early and middle Eocene genus Eogliravus represents the earliest and most primitive glirid taxon; the oldest species, Eogliravus wildi, is known from isolated teeth from the early Eocene of France and a complete specimen of the early middle Eocene of the Messel pit in Germany. They appear in Africa in the upper Miocene and only relatively recently in Asia. Many types of extinct dormouse species have been identified. During the Pleistocene, giant dormice the size of large rats, such as Leithia melitensis, lived on the islands of Malta and Sicily.
The family consists of 29 living species, in three subfamilies and (arguably) 9 genera:
FAMILY GLIRIDAE – Dormice
- Subfamily Graphiurinae
- Genus Graphiurus, African dormice
- Angolan African dormouse, Graphiurus angolensis
- Christy's dormouse, Graphiurus christyi
- Jentink's dormouse, Graphiurus crassicaudatus
- Johnston's African dormouse, Graphiurus johnstoni
- Kellen's dormouse, Graphiurus kelleni
- Lorrain dormouse, Graphiurus lorraineus
- Small-eared dormouse, Graphiurus microtis
- Monard's dormouse, Graphiurus monardi
- Woodland dormouse, Graphiurus murinus
- Nagtglas's African dormouse, Graphiurus nagtglasii
- Spectacled dormouse, Graphiurus ocularis
- Rock dormouse, Graphiurus platyops
- Stone dormouse, Graphiurus rupicola
- Silent dormouse, Graphiurus surdus
- Graphiurus walterverheyeni 
- Genus Graphiurus, African dormice
- Subfamily Leithiinae
- Genus Chaetocauda
- Genus Dryomys
- Genus Eliomys, garden dormice
- Genus Hypnomys† (Balearic dormouse)
- Genus Muscardinus
- Genus Myomimus, mouse-tailed dormice
- Genus Selevinia
- Subfamily Glirinae
- Subfamily Bransatoglirinae
- Baudoin, Claude (1984). In Macdonald, D. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 678–680. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
- Freedman, Paul. "Meals that Time Forgot", gourmet.com, March 2008.
- "Fifth Puhijada". otok-hvar.com
- "10 ways to get a really good sleep", BBC News Magazine, 27 March 2009.
- Storch, G. & Seiffert, C. (2007). "Extraordinarily preserved specimen of the oldest known glirid from the middle Eocene of Messel (Rodentia)". Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology 27 (1): 189–194. doi:10.1671/0272-4634(2007)27[189:EPSOTO]2.0.CO;2.
- Savage, RJG; Long, MR (1986). Mammal Evolution: an illustrated guide. New York: Facts on File. p. 119. ISBN 0-8160-1194-X.
- Holden, Mary Ellen and Levine, Rebecca S (2009). "Chapter 9. Systematic Revision of Sub-Saharan African Dormice (Rodentia: Gliridae: Graphiurus) Part II: Description of a New Species of Graphiurus from the Central Congo Basin, Including Morphological and Ecological Niche Comparisons with G. crassicaudatus and G. lorraineus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 331: 314–355. doi:10.1206/582-9.1.
- Holden, M. E. "Family Gliridae". pp. 819–841 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder, eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2005.
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