Gliridaedormice and hazel mice


The family Gliridae contains 28 species in 9 genera. It can be divided into 3 subfamilies: Graphiurinae (Graphiurus); Leithiinae (Chaetocauda, Dryomys, Eliomys, Muscardinus, Myomimus, and Selevinia); and Glirinae (Glirulus and Glis) (Wilson and Reeder 2005).

The family Gliridae is smaller than it was in the past. More than 30 glirid genera have become extinct since the Eocene (Daams and De Bruijn 1995). (Daams and De Bruijn, 1995; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)

Geographic Range

Gliridae is an Old World family. Its members are found in sub-saharan Africa, in Europe north to southern Scandinavia, and in Asia east to southern China and Japan (Nowak 1999; Vaughan et al. 2000). (Nowak, 1999; Vaughan, et al., 2000)


Glirids live in temperate, subtropical, and tropical forests as well as shrubland, savannahs, the banks of rivers and streams, rocky outcrops, gardens, and agricultural areas (Klingener 1984; Nowak 1999; Vaughan et al. 2000). Species in the genus Selvinia inhabit desert scrub (Nowak 1999). (Klingener, 1984; Nowak, 1999; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

Physical Description

Glirids are small to medium sized rodents, up to about 190 mm in head-body length. They resemble squirrels or chipmunks, with compact bodies and bushy tails (except members of the genera Selevinia and Myomimus, which have sparsely-furred tails). The limbs are relatively short; the feet are broad; and the toes are tipped with short, curved claws. Glirids have four functional digits on their forefeet and five on their hindfeet. Their bodies are covered with thick, soft fur. Some species have distinctive black facial markings. Most are good climbers, and arboreal species have well-developed toe pads. (Nowak, 1999)

Members of this family are myomorphous, but they differ somewhat from the typical myomorph arrangement of the masseter. Their skulls have an enlarged infraorbital foramen through which passes a slip of the medial masseter, as in other myomorphs, but the zygomatic plate is not as strongly developed as in most other members of the group. Nerves and blood vessels pass through this foramen as well as muscle; glirids lack the separate infraorbital foramen for the passage of nerves and blood vessels that is found in dipodids. The jugal of glirids is horizontal and does not meet the lacrimal. The mandibles are unusual in that the angular process is bent outwards, and in some genera it is perforated. Glirids are sciurognathus. (Klingener, 1984; Storch, 1995; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

The dental formula of glirids is 1/1, 0/0, 0-1/0-1, 3/3 = 16 or 20. The incisors are sharply pointed. Cheekteeth are brachydont, and their occlusal surfaces are made up of a series of cusps and basins or parallel enamel ridges. Selevinia (which is sometimes placed in its own family) has very small teeth that scarcely erupt from the gums. These have a very simple occlusal pattern. (Klingener, 1984; Storch, 1995; Vaughan, et al., 2000)


Some glirid species (Graphiurus and Glis) are territorial and solitary except during the breeding season. Glis males have been observed fighting at this time, suggesting that they are polygynous. Nowak (1999) noted that while Glis males have been known to remain with females to help care for their young in captivity, in the wild males most likely leave to pursue other females. The mating system for most glirid genera has not been reported. (Nowak, 1999)

Glirids breed in the spring and summer, though wild populations of edible dormice (Glis glis) may skip reproduction altogether in years of low food abundance (Ruf et al. 2006). Females bear one to two litters per year, with 2 to 10 young per litter. The gestation period ranges from 21 to 30 days. Young open their eyes after about three weeks, and are weaned and independent after four to six weeks (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999; Ruf, et al., 2006)

Before giving birth, females construct soft, moss-lined nests in which to raise their offspring. Glirids are eutherian mammals; therefore, females provide their young with nutrients through the placenta and then through their milk. In captivity, male Glis have been known to help protect and clean their young, but this behavior has not been observed in the wild (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Wild edible dormice (Glis glis) have been reported to live up to 12 years. Such a long lifespan may be attributed to the fact that entire populations skip breeding in poor mast years, allowing them to put more energy into survival (Ruf et al. 2006). Lifespans of four years have been reported for other wild dormice (Dryomys nitedula and Muscardinus avellanarius). Eliomys quercinus and Graphiurus murinus each live 5 to 6 years in captivity (Carey and Judge 2002). (Carey and Judge, 2002; Ruf, et al., 2006)


Most glirids are arboreal, though some Eliomys, Dryomys, Graphiurus, and Myomimus are terrestrial. They construct characteristic globular nests of plant matter in trees, shrubs, rock piles, the burrows of other animals, and sometimes even in human habitations (Nowak 1999). Activity patterns are nocturnal and crepuscular (Wahlert et al. 1993). Glirids living in temperate regions put on fat during the fall, then hibernate during inclement weather. Hibernation may last for the majority of the year; Muscardinus individuals, for example, have been reported to hibernate from August until May (Nowak 1999).

Some glirid species are solitary and territorial for part of the year. Territory sizes of 13.9 ha for males and 8.5 ha for females have been reported for Graphiurus. Glis mark their territories with secretions from glands. Though males may fight in the breeding season, several indivdiuals may congregate in the same nest to hibernate. Muscardinus live in small colonies and also hibernate in groups, with up to 11 individuals sharing a nest (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999; Vaughan, et al., 2000; Wahlert, et al., 1993)

Communication and Perception

These rodents have acute visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile senses. They are known to emit shrieks, whistles, and chirping noises that may function in communication. Members of the genus Glis scent-mark their territories with glandular secretions (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Glirids are omnivores, feeding on fruit and nuts and also eating invertebrates, birds and their eggs, and sometimes other rodents. Selevinia feeds mostly on insects and spiders (Vaughan et al. 2000). Glirids that hibernate may store food over the winter and occasionally awake to consume it (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999; Vaughan, et al., 2000)


Owls are the most frequent predators of glirids (Bouvier and Bayle 1989; Vvano and Turini 1996). When alarmed, glirids deliver a painful bite with their sharp incisors, they may also hiss, spit, and leap high into the air (Nowak 1999). Glirids have the ability to regenerate their tails if lost to predators (Vaughan et al. 2000). (Bouvier and Bayle, 1989; Nowak, 1999; Vaughan, et al., 2000; Vvano and Turini, 1996)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Glirids function as primary, secondary, and higher-level consumers in the ecosystem, because they eat both plants and animals (Nowak 1999; Vaughan et al. 2000). They are also prey for owls (Bouvier and Bayle 1989; Vvano and Turini 1996). (Bouvier and Bayle, 1989; Nowak, 1999; Vaughan, et al., 2000; Vvano and Turini, 1996)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Glis are trapped for their luxuriant fur as well as for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in parts of Europe (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These rodents may be detrimental to agriculture, raiding poultry yards and consuming crops such as plums, grapes, pears, and apples. They also sometimes make themselves a nuisance when they nest in houses (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Of the 29 glirid species, nine are listed as least concern, four are listed as lower risk, four are listed as vulnerable, and four: Chaetocauda sichuanensis, Glirulus japonicus, Myomimus setzeri, and Selevinia betpakdalaensis, are listed as endangered on the 2006 IUCN Red List. Not enough data is available to rank the remaining eight species. The most immediate threat to glirids is habitat destruction, though pesticide use and loss of genetic variation in isolated populations may also lead to declines (Nowak 1999). (IUCN, 2006; Nowak, 1999)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

The fossil record of this family begins in the Eocene. (Vaughan, et al., 2000)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Allison Poor (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Phil Myers (earlier author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


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.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


having more than one female as a mate at one time


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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.


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.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


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