Evolution and systematics

The earliest fossil remains of this family were discovered in Europe and date from the Eocene era (about 40 million years ago). Pleistocene fossils of Leithia, a giant dormouse, have been found in Sicily and Malta.

Phylogenetically, dormice have been grouped with the mountain beaver, Aplodontidae, and squirrels, Sciuridae: in appearance and behavior, dormice most closely resemble squirrels.

Taxonomically, this family is made up of three subfamilies, 8 genera, and 26 species. The largest subfamily, Graphi-urinae, consists of a single genus Graphiurus, the so-called African dormice, whose 14 species are all found in sub-Saharan Africa. The subfamily Leithiinae has four genera; forest dormice Dryomys; garden dormice Eliomys, mouse-tailed dormice Myomimus, and desert dormice Selevinia. The latter genus, consisting of a single species, Selevinia betpakdalaensis, has been the subject of some taxonomic debate. This naked-tailed rodent has been placed either within the Muridae, in a distinct family, or as a subfamily of the Myoxidae. Holden (1993) believed it was most closely related to the mouse-tailed dormice and put it within the same subfamily.

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