African dormice Graphiurus ?murinus, photographed by H. Osadnik.

Belongs within: Rodentia.

The Gliroidea, dormice, are a group of mouse-like rodents, more closely related to squirrels than true mice. The name of the group refers to their hibernation (dormancy) during winter. Among living species, the Glirinae are found in Eurasia and northern Africa, while Graphiurus is found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nothing to do with teapots
Published 4 February 2008

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.
–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

The dormouse was an animal that I had heard of long before I knew what one actually was, solely as a result of its appearance in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a book I read countless times as a young’un. Those of you who have read the book will recall that the main characteristic of the Dormouse was its continually falling asleep.

Dormice (Gliridae*) are a smallish family of mostly Palaearctic rodents. The name is supposed to come from the same source as the word “dormant” and refers to the hibernation by species in colder climates. Dormice resemble rather solidly built mice, but features of the internal anatomy, supported by molecular data, indicate that Gliridae are not, in fact, close relatives of the Muroidea (mice and rats proper). Instead, they are more closely related to the Sciuroidea (squirrels), their mouse-like features having arisen convergently (Maier et al. 2002). The relatively long fossil record of Gliridae, dating back to the Eocene, also supports a more basal position for the family.

*Some references will use the name Myoxidae for the same family. There may also be a single family Gliridae, or a superfamily Gliroidea containing two families, depending on whether the specialised Selevinia (see below) is regarded as belonging to a separate family or as a derived member of the Gliridae.

Selevinia betpakdalensis, from Animal Diversity Web.

Dormice are seemingly fairly omnivorous. Animal Diversity Web describes their diet as “feeding on fruit and nuts and also eating invertebrates, birds and their eggs, and sometimes other rodents“. One rather unique species, the rare Selevinia betpakdalensis of Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan, has a highly reduced dentition and is mostly insectivorous.

Skull of Selevinia betpakdalensis, from here.

The tendency of hibernating species to stack on the fat in preparation for winter gives rise to the common name of the European species Glis glis, the edible dormouse. This species was eaten in Imperial Rome, though the image below suggests that it may have been a little difficult to get the apple into its mouth. The Old Foodie has a recipe for stuffed dormouse taken from a translation of Apicius, while Roman History Books and More also gives a quote from Petronius referring to dormice coated with poppy seeds and honey. Tasty!

Edible dormouse Glis glis, from the Daily Mail.
Systematics of Gliridae

Characters (from Lavocat 1978): Sciurognath jaws, with infraorbital foramen frequently of great size; cheek teeth with very distinctive pattern, transverse crests usually low and frequently numerous. Usually four cheek teeth (except P3 present in Gliravus).

<==Gliridae [Glirimorpha, Glirinae, Gliroidea, Muscardinidae, Myoxidae]R06
    |--+--+--Glirulus Thomas 1906FS15, P04
    |  |  |    `--G. japonicus (Schinz 1845)I92
    |  |  `--Glis Brisson 1762FS15, P04
    |  |       |--G. glisAA02
    |  |       |--G. insularisB-H00
    |  |       |--G. minor Kowalski 1956 [=G. sackdillingensis minor]P04
    |  |       |--G. sackdillingensis (Heller 1930)P04
    |  |       `--G. vulgarisT66
    |  `--Graphiurus [Graphiurinae]FS15
    |       |  i. s.: G. huetiIT07
    |       |         G. olgaIT07
    |       |         G. parvusIT07
    |       |--G. nagtglasiiFS15
    |       `--+--G. crassicaudatusFS15
    |          `--+--+--G. angolensisFS15
    |             |  `--G. platyopsFS15
    |             `--+--+--G. monardiFS15
    |                |  `--+--G. christyiFS15
    |                |     `--G. ocularisFS15
    |                `--+--G. microtisFS15
    |                   `--+--G. murinusFS15
    |                      `--+--G. lorraineusFS15
    |                         `--+--+--G. johnstoniFS15
    |                            |  `--G. kelleniFS15
    |                            `--+--G. rupicolaFS15
    |                               `--G. surdusFS15
    `--+--Muscardinus Kaup 1829FS15, P04
       |    |--M. avellanariusB74
       |    |--M. cyclopeus Agusti, Moyà & Pons 1982BG-PQ-C02
       |    `--M. sansaniensisM-SK04
          |  |    |--Selevinia betpakdalaensisFS15
          |  |    `--Plioselevinia Sulimski 1962SM93
          |  `--Myomimus Ognev 1924FS15, P04
          |       |  i. s.: M. complicidentatus Popov 2004P04
          |       |         M. dehmi (De Bruijn 1966)P04
          |       |         M. maritsensis De Bruijn, Dawson & Mein 1970P04
          |       |         M. qafzensis (Haas 1973)P04
          |       |--M. roachi (Bate 1937)FS15, P04
          |       `--+--M. personatusFS15
          |          `--M. setzeriFS15
          `--+--Eliomys Wagner 1840FS15, P04 [incl. Hypnomys Bate 1918AC98]
             |    |  i. s.: E. amoriB-H01
             |    |         E. sardus Barrett-Hamilton 1901B-H01
             |    |         E. wiedincitensis (De Bruijn 1982) [=Maltamys wiedincitensis]AC98
             |    |--+--E. melanurusFS15
             |    |  `--E. munbyanusFS15
             |    `--+--E. morpheus (Bate 1918)FS15, AC98 [=Hypnomys morpheusAC98]
             |       `--E. quercinusFS15
             |            |--E. q. quercinusKK54
             |            `--E. q. pallidus Barrett-Hamilton 1899KK54
             `--+--Chaetocauda sechuanensisFS15
                `--Dryomys Thomas 1906FS15, P04
                     |  i. s.: D. sichuanensisIT07
                     |--D. lanigerFS15
                     `--+--D. niethammeriFS15
                        `--D. nitedula (Pallas 1779)FS15, SM03
                             |--D. n. nitedulaSM03
                             |--D. n. phrygiusSM03
                             `--D. n. pictusSM03
Gliridae incertae sedis:
  Microdyromys De Bruijn 1966P04
    |--M. complicatusM-SK04
    `--M. koenigswaldi De Bruijn 1966P04
  Dryomimus Kretzoi 1959P04
    `--D. eliomyoides Kretzoi 1959P04
  Peridyromys Stehlin & Schaub 1951P04
    |--P. aquatilis (De Bruijn & Moltzer 1974)P04
    `--P. murinus (Pomel 1953)P04
  Ramys Garcia Moreno & Lopez Martinez 1986P04
    `--R. multicrestatus (De Bruijn 1966)P04
  Miodyromys aegercii (Baudelot 1972)P04
  Pseudodryomys De Bruijn 1965P04
    |--P. ibericusC-PR70
    `--P. simplicidensC-PR70
  Eogliravus Hartenberger 1971SM93
    |--M. glisIT07
    |--M. melanurusT66
    `--M. nitellaT66

[AC98] Alcover, J. A., X. Campillo, M. Macias & A. Sans. 1998. Mammal species of the world: additional data on insular mammals. American Museum Novitates 3248: 1–29.

[AA02] Arnason, U., J. A. Adegoke, K. Bodin, E. W. Born, Y. B. Esa, A. Gullberg, M. Nilsson, R. V. Short, X. Xu & A. Janke. 2002. Mammalian mitogenomic relationships and the root of the eutherian tree. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 99 (12): 8151–8156.

[BG-PQ-C02] Bailon, S., J. Garcia-Porta & J. Quintana-Cardona. 2002. Première découverte de Viperidae (Reptilia, Serpentes) dans les îles Baléares (Espagne): Des vipères du Néogène de Minorque. Description d’une nouvelle espèce du Pliocène. Comptes Rendus Palevol 1: 227–234.

[B-H00] Barrett-Hamilton, G. E. H. 1900. Note on the common hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus, Linnaeus) and its subspecies or local variations. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, series 7, 5: 360–368.

[B-H01] Barrett-Hamilton, G. E. H. 1901. Note on the Eliomys of Sardinia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, series 7, 7: 340–341.

[B74] Bugge, J. 1974. The cephalic arterial system in insectivores, primates, rodents and lagomorphs, with special reference to the systematic classification. Acta Anatomica 87 (Suppl 62): 1–160.

[C-PR70] Crusafont-Pairó, M., & S. Reguant. 1970. The nomenclature of intermediate forms. Systematic Zoology 19 (3): 254–257.

[FS15] Faurby, S., & J.-C. Svenning. 2015. A species-level phylogeny of all extant and late Quaternary extinct mammals using a novel heuristic-hierarchical Bayesian approach. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 14–26.

[IT07] Isaac, N. J. B., S. T. Turvey, B. Collen, C. Waterman & J. E. M. Baillie. 2007. Mammals on the EDGE: conservation priorities based on threat and phylogeny. PloS One 2 (3): e296.

[I92] Iwahashi, J. (ed.) 1992. Reddo Deeta Animaruzu: a pictorial of Japanese fauna facing extinction. JICC: Tokyo.

[KK54] Klemmer, K., & H. E. Krampitz. 1954. Zur Kenntnis der Säugetierfauna Siziliens. Senckenbergiana Biologica 35 (3–4): 121–135.

Lavocat, L. 1978. Rodentia and Lagomorpha. In: Maglio, V. J., & H. B. S. Cooke (eds) Evolution of African Mammals pp. 69–89. Harvard University Press: Cambridge (Massachusetts).

Maier, W., P. Klingler & I. Ruf. 2002. Ontogeny of the medial masseter muscle, pseudo-myomorphy, and the systematic position of the Gliridae (Rodentia, Mammalia). Journal of Mammalian Evolution 9 (4): 253–269.

[M-SK04] Moyà-Solà, S., M. Köhler, D. M. Alba, I. Casanovas-Vilar & J. Galindo. 2004. Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a new Middle Miocene great ape from Spain. Science 306: 1339–1344.

[P04] Popov, V. V. 2004. Pliocene small mammals (Mammalia, Lipotyphla, Chiroptera, Lagomorpha, Rodentia) from Muselievo (north Bulgaria). Geodiversitas 26 (3): 403–491.

[R06] Rose, K. D. 2006. The Beginning of the Age of Mammals. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

[SM03] Shehab, A. H., O. Mouhra, M. A. Abu Baker & Z. S. Amr. 2003. Observations on the forest dormouse, Dryomys nitedula (Pallas, 1779) (Rodentia: Gliridae), in Syria. Zoology in the Middle East 29: 4–12.

[SM93] Stucky, R. K., & M. C. McKenna. 1993. Mammalia. In: Benton, M. J. (ed.) The Fossil Record 2 pp. 739–771. Chapman & Hall: London.

[T66] Tristram, H. B. 1866. Report on the mammals of Palestine. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 84–93.

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