The garden dormouse is considered a unique animal. She is a representative of rodents. The animal leads a hidden, nocturnal lifestyle. Because of this, many have never even heard of such a beast. The dormouse got its name due to the fact that having accumulated fat reserves, it hibernates in autumn and stays in it until spring.
Previously, these cute little animals, outwardly resembling a mouse that changed its fur coat, were very common. However, today they are listed in the international Red Book. Animals were massively destroyed due to the fact that they are carriers of infectious diseases, and also because they cause serious damage to agricultural land.
Origin of the species and description
Sonya garden is considered one of the oldest representatives of the rodent species. Aristotle mentioned it in his writings. Translated from ancient Greek, its name means “beautiful, cute, graceful” animal.
Researchers say that the ancient ancestors of these cute little animals were born a little over 6,000,000 years ago during the Eocene period. The genus Gliravus became the founder of these rodents. Representatives of this existed on earth for about 20,000,000 years. Subsequently, he gave rise to the genus of forest dormouse. These are the most primitive representatives of the dormouse family.
Video: Garden dormouse
According to preliminary data, the ancient ancestors of the garden dormouse lived on the territory of eastern Eurasia and Africa. Scientists zoologists note that the heyday and the greatest distribution of the dormouse genus falls on the Miocene period. It was at this time that the dormouse genus was divided into more than two dozen subspecies. Only six of the pre-existing animal species currently exist. Animals belong to the class of mammals, the order of rodents. They are representatives of the dormouse family, a species of garden dormouse.
Appearance and features
In appearance, they have an incredible resemblance to gray mice. The body length is 14.5-15.5 centimeters. Body weight 55-150 grams. Animals have a very long, thin tail. Its length is almost equal to the length of the body and is 11-13 centimeters. The tail has a short coat, evenly distributed over its entire surface. At the very end, the wool is collected in a small, fluffy tassel. The tail has most often three colors of wool. At the very bottom, it is white, light pink in color. Gray on both sides, and brownish at the base.
The limbs are of uneven length. The hind legs are significantly longer than the front. There are four toes on the front and hind legs. On the front paws, the third and fourth fingers stand out – they are longer. On the hind limbs, the fourth finger is longer than the others. The feet are narrow, elongated. The muzzle is round, slightly pointed. The garden dormouse has large round ears and huge black eyes. The nose is framed by thin, long vibrissae.
The coat is short, thick and soft. The color may vary depending on the climate in the habitat. Basically, they differ in gray or brown fur. The area of the abdomen, neck, chest and limbs is covered with hair of a light shade, almost white. A distinctive feature of garden dormouse is a black stripe that runs from the eye area to the behind-the-ear space. Young garden dormouse have brighter, contrasting coat colors. Fur shades fade with age.
Where does the garden dormouse live?
Garden dormouse mainly lives in forest areas, mainly in flat or slightly hilly areas. Can settle in abandoned gardens.
Geographical habitats of garden dormouse:
- northern regions of Africa;
- the territory of Eastern Europe;
- almost all regions Belarus;
- partially the territory of Russia – the Leningrad, Novgorod, Pskov regions, the territory of the lower Urals, the Lower Kama region;
- some regions of Asia Minor;
Garden dormouse loves the territory of forests, where broad-leaved trees predominate. Rarely found in forests with coniferous trees. Often they choose the territory of abandoned garden farms or agricultural land as areas for habitation. They love places where tall, dense shrubs. Orchards, urban park areas are often chosen as settlements.
They are not afraid of humans, so they often settle near human settlements. There are even cases of domestication of garden dormouse. However, it is worth noting that only young individuals can be tamed by a person. Plus, these little rodents don't really like being touched.
What does the garden dormouse eat?
Garden dormouse is considered an omnivore. She eats both plant and animal foods. Zoologists say that this type of food makes up the bulk of the diet.
What is included in the diet of the animal:
- bird eggs;
- chicks that have fallen out of the nest ;
- larvae of various insects;
- beetles, spiders, centipedes, worms;
- young shoots of various types of vegetation.
Due to hibernation, many individuals eat heavily all summer, and some also tend to stock up. Garden dormouse stocks, like hazel dormouse, are destroyed in early spring. The structure of the limbs of garden dormouse contributes to active food on the ground. In addition, they are considered skilled hunters. They can catch small birds or butterflies. Able to climb trees in search of bird nests.
He drinks bird eggs by making a hole in the eggs with his teeth. Snails are eaten in the same way by biting through the shells. During the period of hunger and lack of food, cases of hunting even for gray field mice are known. A distinctive feature is that even with a large amount of plant food, seeds and fruits, they need regular consumption of food of animal origin. If rodents do not eat meat food for 5-7 days, they fall into a stupor.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Garden dormouse is predominantly nocturnal. Animals also hunt and get food at night. However, during the period of marriage, which falls on the spring-summer period, they can be active during the daytime. Rodents are considered solitary animals. Short-term pairs are formed only for the duration of mating. However, they are very short-lived.
As a dwelling, as well as forest dormouse, they can choose empty mouse holes, hollows of squirrels, bird nests, rotten cores of trees. Often they settle under roofs or in the crevices of residential buildings. The dwelling has a spherical shape. For its arrangement, garden dormouse uses various natural materials. Leaves, grasses, moss, animal hair or bird feathers are suitable for this.
All summer long, animals eat intensively, increasing fatty tissue, and also equip their homes. The survival of the animal during hibernation depends on how reliable and secluded the dwelling will be. According to statistics, about a third of individuals die in severe frosts if the shelter is not sufficiently insulated. Young animals from the same litter winter together. So it is easier for them to survive in the conditions of one shelter, warming each other. Sleeping garden dormouse, curled up, legs tucked, and covered with a tail.
In the middle of autumn, they hibernate, which lasts six months. During hibernation, the animals slow down all metabolic processes, respiratory rate, and pulse. During hibernation, garden dormouse loses up to half of its body weight.
They are considered excellent hunters. They have instant response and speed. Dormouse is able to make a sound reminiscent of the chirping of insects. The family that went for a walk resembles a small line. They quickly follow each other.
Social structure and reproduction
After a long hibernation, the period of marriage begins. Waking up, animals tend to mark their territory and designate their range. The mating season begins in mid-April and lasts until early July. Females tend to attract males with the help of special loud sounds, reminiscent of a shrill whistle.
Males, in response to such a loud heart-rending sound, emit something that looks like a dull mutter. If at the same time several males claim one female, they drive each other away, in some cases they can bite. Not for a while garden dormouse can even form a family. After mating, the females either drive out the males or leave the dwelling themselves.
Pregnancy lasts about three weeks. With the approach of childbirth, the female begins to look for a place for childbirth. From these considerations, she builds a mink, often several at the same time. One female produces from three to six cubs at a time. The born offspring are absolutely helpless. The cubs are blind, deaf and have no coat.
All care for offspring lies on the shoulders of the mother. She takes care of them, feeds them with milk. If she feels danger to her offspring, she immediately takes them to a safe shelter by the scruff of the neck.
After 3 weeks from the moment of birth, the cubs open their eyes. After that, they grow rapidly and gain body weight. A month after birth, the young begin to independently obtain their own food and hunt. Grown up kids go for a walk and run in single file after their mother. The first cub clings to the mother's fur with its teeth. Subsequent ones cling to each other with paws or teeth.
During one year, a sexually mature female produces cubs twice. Upon reaching the age of two months, they lead an isolated lifestyle. The average life expectancy of an individual in natural conditions is 4.5-6 years.
Natural enemies of garden dormouse
Natural enemies of the garden dormouse dormice are considered:
- owls, hawks, kites;
- domestic dogs and cats;
- marten and ermine.
Competitors in terms of food are gray rats, which exterminate garden dormouse in large numbers. The most dangerous enemy of rodents are people and their activities. Man exterminates them in large numbers consciously and unintentionally. People destroy animals because of the damage they cause to fields and gardens. Rodents eat seeds, fruits and fruits of trees. Garden dormouse is hunted by dogs and cats, for whom they are of particular interest.
There are known cases of the destruction of the animal in order to obtain skins. They are used by man as secondary furs.
The use of chemical compounds, fertilizers of non-natural origin also contributes to the reduction of garden dormouse populations. Representatives of the dormouse family have a huge number of enemies in their natural habitat. The most dangerous is a man, owls and owls, as well as gray rats. Despite the speed and incredible dexterity, garden dormouse cannot always escape from the attack of predatory animals and birds. Living near human habitats makes them an object of domestic animal prey.
Population and species status
In recent years, garden dormouse populations have declined significantly. In some regions, this species has completely disappeared. Animals are listed in the international Red Book and assigned the status of “a species that is on the verge of extinction.” The attack of gray rats, as well as birds of prey, forest and domestic carnivores, leads to a decrease in the number. The main cause of destruction is considered to be human activity. Deforestation, clearing trees containing trees.
In comparison with the original range, the territory of their habitat was reduced by half. Man destroys them in large numbers due to the fact that they pose a serious threat as carriers of infectious diseases. Another reason for the mass destruction by man is the damage they cause to agricultural land.
In addition, a large number of individuals die from severe frosts during hibernation. Of particular danger to small furry rodents are owls, which lead the same nocturnal lifestyle. They go hunting at night, when garden dormouse is most active. To date, the most numerous populations are located on the territory of the western territory of Europe. In particular, Germany, the Czech Republic, France. Rodents are also common in Belarus.
Protection of garden dormouse
Species protection means protecting the garden dormouse habitat from human activities. The animal is listed in the international Red Book. In this regard, the destruction of the animal for any reason is strictly prohibited.
Besides this, no special measures are being developed or taken to preserve and increase the population.
Garden dormouse looks very similar to a gray mouse that has changed its coat color. She is also often compared to a squirrel because of her agility and the ability to quickly jump on branches and climb trees.