the summer coat of the mountain dormouse

In the early Neocene rodents got an opportunity to prove once again their evolutionary success. They evolved quickly, occupying all habitats suitable for them, and already in early Neocene their specific variety was comparable to the level of Pliocene and an early Pleistocene, before the epoch of anthropogenous pressure. In the Neocene rodents are widespread everywhere on Earth, except for Antarctica – from equatorial forests to cold northern meadows and tops of mountains.


the winter coat of the mountain dormouse

In Eurasia in Neocene there were some species of dormice family which use food of animal origin much more often than their ancestors. These are the sable dormouse (Raptoglis zibellinus) from Three-River-Land steppes and the otter-dormouse (Glirolutra hamiota) from rivers of eastern part of Europe. One more species closely related to them lives to the south from Fourseas, in mountains of Caucasian peninsula and mountains of the Middle East – it is the mountain dormouse called also the chinchilla-dormouse for its thick warm fur. This representative of northern fauna prospers in the south exactly thanks to dwelling in cold highland climate. The mountain dormouse is the large rodent reaching weight of about 3 kilograms and the size of a small cat. Due to tail covered with long wool the animal seems even larger. The head of this rodent is rounded, has shortened muzzle and small ears covered with wool from outside. Mountain dormouse has large eyes and good sight. This species mastered successfully life in highlands due to thick fur which helps to keep heat even in hard frost or at the great elevations. Summer fur of this animal is reddish-brown, velvety and rather short. There always is a white spot on breast and throat, head top is darker. the Winter fur differs in greater wool length and thickness, and also in lighter coloring.

the Constitution of this animal is solid, and paws are short (hinder legs are rather longer than forelegs). Fingers and toes are armed with pointed claws due to which mountain dormouse is capable to climb on almost steep mountainsides and among a bush. This animal can make leaps up to 2 – 3 meters long. Mountain dormouses are almost exceptionally zoophagous, adding to their diet no more than 10% of vegetable food, though in case of starvation they can temporarily turn to completely vegetative food. These rodents often eat carrion, searching for it by smell. Additionally mountain dormouses readily gnaw even bones. For them the habit to search and to pull down bones to “bonemill”, a special place hidden from predators, where these animals gnaw their finds, is characteristic. They almost completely assimilate collagen from the eaten bones, and the remains are insignificant. Usual prey of mountain dormice includes small rodents, birds and their eggs, and reptiles and insects in lowlands. This species of rodents lives singly and rarely in couples. The female is more aggressive than male. The shelter of this rodent represents the deep hole made between stones in the way hardening the digging out of the hole by predators. Like other representatives of family, mountain dormice fall the long hibernation which can last up to half a year with short breaks. Animals grow fat intensively to the winter, gaining the weight of about 4,5 kg. Fur becomes longer and denser. During the winter the animal wakes up for several times to leave the dung, which is very condensed and dry at this time. The posterity is born at the end of spring when there is a lot of food. The litter numbers up to 5 cubs which grow quickly and at the age of about two weeks already start tasting meat. Sometimes at the end of summer animals can have the second litter in which only sometimes there are more than two cubs. Life expectancy doesn’t exceed 5 years.

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