Apodemus sylvaticuslong-tailed field mouse

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Geographic Range

Apodemus sylvaticus is found throughout Europe, except northern Scandinavia and Finland, east to the Altai and Himalayan mountains. It is also found in parts of central and southwestern Asia, Himalayas, northwestern Africa, British Isles and nearby islands. (Fact-File 1991, Nowak 1991)

Habitat

These mice like grassy fields, cultivated areas, woodlands and forests, although they will live anywhere they can find adequate shelter. They may move into human habitations in the fall and winter but usually dig deep burrows and build a nest of shredded grass and leaves at the end of a tunnel. (Fact-File 1990;Nowak 1991; Parker 1990)

Physical Description

Head and body length of Apodemus sylvaticus is 60-150mm, tail length is 70-145 mm. The fur is soft, and the tail is only moderately hairy. Coloration on the dorsal area is grayish buff, grayish brown, brown with yellow or red mixed in, or pale sand color. The underparts are white or light gray, often with yellow tinges and an oblong yellow spot on the throat. The feet are white. The tail is not prehensile. Females have six or eight nipples. The eyes and ears are large, allowing good vision at night and predator avoidance. The sense of smell is highly developed, and these rodents can detect the exact location of buried seeds without having to dig at random in a general area.

Like other members of the subfamily Murinae, these mice have moderately low crowned cheek teeth, with an arrangement of cusps which results in the formation of three longitudinal rows on the biting surface. The incisors are ever-growing self sharpening. There is a layer of enamel on only the front and sides of the teeth, resulting in the back part of the tooth wearing away during normal gnawing behavior so as to form a chisel-like edge.

(Fact-File 1991; Macdonald 1985; Nowak 1991; Parker 1990)

  • Average mass
    23.4 g
    0.82 oz
    AnAge
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.264 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

The breeding season of Apodemys sylvaticus is from March through early winter. Females produce up to four litters annually, with four to seven young each litter after a gestation period of 21-26 days. The young are altricial, weighing a mere 2.5g. They are born with a thin coat of dark fur and open their eyes after 13 days. They are weaned at three weeks and reach sexual maturity at two months. Females of this age usually weigh around 14 grams, while males weigh approximately 25 g. (Fact-File 1991; Nowak 1991)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    5.2
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    23 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    71 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    65 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Wood mice are very good climbers, jumpers, and swimmers. They are nocturnal or crepuscular. Males normally live in an area of approximately 109 m in diameter, while females inhabit an area of 64 m in diameter.

When not cohabiting with humans, they build burrows and tunnel systems below ground. These burrows are typically about 3 cm wide and 8-18 cm below the surface, sometimes incorporating tunnels of other animals. Burrow systems consist of a circular tunnel around the roots of a tree, another tunnel leading below the tree to a nesting chamber, and other tunnels serving as a passage to the entrances, of which there are usually two. This mouse also uses its burrow system to store food, and cooperative burrowing has been documented, with several adults living in the same nest. Females prevent males from entering when young are present.

In times of danger, these mice flee by hopping along on only the hind legs, which are elongated although they are not a purely saltatorial species.

(Fact-File 1990; Nowak 1991; Parker 1990)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The diet of the Wood Mouse consists of roots, grains, seeds, berries, nuts, grasses, grain kernels, fruits and insects. (Nowak 1991;Parker 1990)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Apodemus sylvaticus are important agents for the transportation and burying of tree seeds. Their impact on the forests has both a positive and a negative aspect, and their role in the health of woodland is currently under study. (Nowak 1991)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The wood mouse is seen as a pest, inflicting serious damage to vegetable gardens and farmland, digging up seeds before they can germinate, and eating crop grasses down to the ground. These mice are also responsible for damage to seedlings in wooded areas of their range. (Fact-File 1990; Nowak 1991)

Conservation Status

This species is the most common mouse throughout its range. It is not under any threat. (Fact-File 1990)

Other Comments

The pygmy field mouse (Apodemus microps) and the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) are very similar in appearance and behavior, and they share habitat in some areas, and can be referred to as "twin" species. The Wood Mouse has yet another "twin" species, the yellow necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollus). Although very similar in many traits, these species are distinct and do not interbreed. Life span in the wild is typically one year, but captive individuals have lived for four years.

(Parker 1990)

Contributors

Francesca Ivaldi (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Macdonald, Dr.D., ed. 1985. Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File Publishers, NY.

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Ed. Vol II. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Parker, S.P., ed. 1990. Grziemek's Encyclopedia. Vol 3. McGraw-Hill Publishers, NY.

Wildlife Fact-File. 1991. Wildlife Fact File, NY.