Reproductive biology

Lengthy hibernation periods at either end of the year mean that for a number of species, the breeding season is very short.

A hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) foraging for berries. (Photo by Stephen Dalton/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

In temperate zones, it lasts typically from May to October with one litter producing on average four young. Hazel dormice sometimes attempt—usually unsuccessfully—a second litter. Forest dormice appear to be exceptional in raising three litters. Productivity in Africa, where breeding seasons are much longer, is largely unknown.

The edible dormouse (Myoxus glis) is a European species. (Photo by Jacana/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
A garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) eating a prickly pear. (Photo by J. C. Carton. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Dormice become sexually active after their first hibernation and bouts of wakefulness towards the end of hibernation may be caused by hormone changes that trigger sexual activity. Vocal calls are important in courtship as each sex entices the other with a range of squeaks and whistles. Once mated, the female builds a globular nest and gives birth to pink, blind young weighing just 0.07 oz (2 g). At seven days, they gain gray fur. By 18 days, the fur is brown and the babies can both hear and see. Shortly after, the young are able to accompany their mother on foraging trips. They reach independence after four to six weeks. Longevity is up to about 5.5 years in the wild. A captive garden dormouse lived for five years and six months.

0 0

Post a comment