Desert Dormouse
(Selevinia betpakdalaensis)
DD
Overview
This dormouse has a round, stocky body and a long tail. Unlike other dormice it sheds the upper layers of its skin when it moults. As patches of skin fall off they are replaced by a dense new growth of hair which is already in place under the upper layers of the skin. Largely nocturnal, the dormouse shelters under leaves or stones during the day. It is active at moderate temperatures, only hibernating when desert temperatures fall below 5?C. Its habitat is restricted and declining.
Urgent Conservation Actions
No official conservation recommendations have been made for this species.
Distribution
Eastern Kazakhstan.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Rodentia
Family: Gliridae
The family Myoxidae (also known as Gliridae) contains 28 species in 9 genera. It is an ancient family, thought to have originated sometime during the middle Eocene (45 million years ago). In the Pleistocene (1.8 million to 10,000 years ago), giant species lived on some of the Mediterranean islands. Living dormice are intermediate in form and behaviour between mice and squirrels. The desert dormouse is the only member of the genus Selevinia. The only known fossils that may have close affinity to Selevinia are two mandibles from the Pliocene (3-7 million years ago) of Poland. The closest living relatives of the desert dormouse are the three species of mouse-tailed dormice (Myomimus spp.).
Description
Size: 
Head and body length: 75-95 mm
Tail length: 58-77 mm
Weight: 18-24 g
This unusual dormouse has a round, stocky body and a long tail. It has very dense, soft fur which is greyish above and white below. Remarkably, it sheds the upper layers of its skin when it moults. As patches of skin fall off they are replaced by a dense new growth of hair which is already in place under the upper layers of the skin. The moult begins at the back of the neck and then proceeds along the back and sides; the entire process takes about a month. The tail is covered with short hairs, and the scales are not visible. The palms and soles are naked.
Ecology
A nocturnal species. In warmer weather this dormouse is thought to shelter under leaves or stones during the day. When the temperature is low it lives in burrows under bushes. This dormouse is quite active at moderate temperatures. It is a good climber and has been known to venture far from its shelter in search of food. The diet is thought to consist solely of invertebrates such as insects and spiders, and individuals consume as much as three quarters of their body weight each day. Hibernation is thought to occur when temperatures fall below 5?C. Mating takes place in May, and possibly again in July. Litter size is thought to be around 6-8.
Habitat
The species is sparsely distributed in clay and sandy deserts. It occurs among thickets of Spirianthus, in growths of wormwood, and among boyalych (Salsola laricifolia).
Distribution
Occurs in deserts to the west and north of Lake Balkhash in eastern Kazakhstan.
Population Estimate
Unknown.
Status
Classified as Endangered (EN B1+2c) on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats
Occurs in a restricted and declining habitat.
Conservation Underway
Some surveys have been carried out within the species’ range. llchenko and Volodin (1992) reported the collection of a single specimen during surveys in June 1988 and May-June 1989. There do not appear to be any specific conservation measures in place.
Conservation Proposed
No official conservation recommendations have been made.
References
Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Tchabovsky, A. 1996. Selevinia betpakdalaensis. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 09 August 2006.

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

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