`You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’
The Dormouse, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol
Well, technically, spring is here (February 4th brought double digit temperatures and a maximum more than twice as high as the previous Friday), the cold weather is far from gone. As I finish typing this post, we are expecting a maximum of 1℃ and possibly 5cm or more of snow!
This blog entry was born from one of those “diamond moments” on TV. (Japanese TV can be like looking for diamonds in a sewer. There are diamonds to be had, but you have to go through a lot of… well, you get the idea)
Unfortunately, that particular item did not make the English language media. The news was about a rare Japanese dormouse that was found to have made a nest inside a futon to hibernate in.
From the Nishi Nihon Shimbun:
In fact, the only news item in English relating to the Japanese dormouse was over a year old!
The Japanese dormouse (Glirulus japonicus) is the sole member of its genus found in Japan, where it is also endemic. It’s local name is Yamane (山鼠), although many urban dwellers are largely unaware of its existence.
Measuring around 7 – 8 cm in body length and a tail of 4.5 – 5.5 cm, the most distinguishing feature of this mouse-like rodent is the hair on the tail.
Apparently, if the tail is tightly gripped, the skin and hair may be pulled off, allowing the animal to escape.
Japanese dormice are omnivores, feeding on insects, fruit (typically not eating the skins), seeds and occasionally birds eggs.
Dormice are best known for their hibernation habits. Japanese dormice typically build nests of moss and bark inside tree hollows, although nests built in rock fissures or abandoned hornet nests have also been observed. When the maximum temperature drops to below 12℃ or so, the dormice go into hibernation. In some areas, this may mean remaining largely inactive for six months of the year. Their body temperature may drop to just a few degrees and their pulse will slow considerably – although a hibernating dormouse’s pulse may be higher than mine as I type this!
Apparently, Japanese dormice were once considered protective forest spirits, and there seems to be no tradition of eating them, unlike in ancient Rome and modern Slovakia.
The species was removed from the IUCN Red List category of Near Threatened in 2007.
The Japanese dormouse is an animal one seems very unlikely to encounter in the wild. Some zoos have them on display – Ueno Z00 being a prime example – but I will keep my eyes peeled anyway… once the weather has warmed up!