Feeding ecology and diet

Dormice are nocturnal and crepuscular foragers, with most species taking their food from trees. Although they are nominally omnivorous, they are the only rodent family lacking a cecum. Consequently, their consumption of low grade plant food is minimal.

Most species are specialized in taking advantage of seasonal food. Typically, buds and tree flowers are eaten in spring and early summer; insects and other arthropods, small rodents, birds' eggs and insects in summer; and fruit, berries, seeds, and nuts in late summer and the fall. The extent to which individual species depend on one source varies—edible and hazel dormice have a largely vegetarian diet, whereas garden, forest, and African dormice are predominantly carnivorous. Yet each species can alter its diet in response to particular needs. "Vegetarian" dormice eat insects in the summer period of

Edible dormice (Myoxus glis) near their nesting hole in a tree. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Gerard Lacz. Reproduced by permission.)

van Aarde. Reproduced by permission.) A hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) in hibernation. (Photo by

Kim Taylor. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

van Aarde. Reproduced by permission.) A hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) in hibernation. (Photo by

Kim Taylor. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

shortages before fruits and seeds have ripened. "Carnivorous" dormice switch to nuts and seeds in the fall, so that their fat intake increases in preparation for hibernation. Only the desert dormouse is thought to be purely carnivorous.

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