Up high with the dormouse

Meet the only mouse that spends most of its active life among the branches of trees as it search for a tasty feed.8300290298_bbf86b25b0_z

Spotting the hazel dormouse isn’t an easy task. These rodents are nocturnal, spending their waking hours scurrying almost invisibly, within thick, overgrown hedgerows, coppice, dense scrubs and the canopy of deciduous woodland. As such, they are the only mice that spend the vast majority of their active lifetime off the ground and they have adapted well. To help them to navigate the uneven tree branches of their home, they rely heavily on their whiskers, which vibrate up to 25 times a second. They use them to feel oncoming surfaces, which allows them to decide where to put their feet, while giving them advanced notice of oncoming gaps in the terrain.

In working out the right time to switch to another branch, they are able to protect themselves from potential falls and this also proves particularly useful when they are moving around in the dark, even though they have good eyesight and an acute sense of hearing. Indeed these tiny, golden brown coloured creatures do not necessarily have to use their eyes when searching for their favourite foods of hazel, insects, pollen, honeysuckle flowers, and fruits such as blackberries. The whisker follicles of dormice contain sensory nodes, which act as locators and allow the rodents to work out the quality, size and shape of each item before they reach it.

 

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