307.
Armenian Birch Mouse
(Sicista armenica)
EN
Overview
The Armenian birch mouse is a small mouse-like rodent with a long, semi-prehensile tail. It is a relative of the jumping mice and jerboas and, like these species, travels on the ground by leaping. Birch mice can climb bushes and shrubs with ease, using their semi-prehensile tails to grip branches for additional support. They are generally active at night, and hibernate for at least six months of the year in underground burrows. The Armenian birch mouse is most at risk from habitat loss due to illegal logging.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Habitat protection.
Distribution
Known from only one locality in Armenia.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Rodentia
Family: Dipodidae
The family Dipodidae (birch mice, jumping mice and jerboas) contains 51 living species in 16 genera. Species in this family are generally characterised by their remarkable adaptations for jumping, which are thought to have evolved as an anti-predator strategy. It is interesting to note that the unrelated hopping mice of Australia and the kangaroo rats of North America have evolved similar adaptations in response to similar environmental conditions (an example of convergent evolution). Dipodid fossils are known from the Oligocene (26-38 million years ago). The Armenian birch mouse belongs to the genus Sicista, which contains 13 other species.
Description
Size: 
Head and body length: approx. 50-90 mm
Tail length: approx. 65-110 mm
Hind foot length: approx. 14-18 mm
Weight: approx. 6-14 g
A small mouse-like rodent with a long, semi-prehensile tail. The upper parts are a dark brown or sandy colour. The underparts are paler, usually a lighter brown.
Ecology
Birch mice travel on the ground by leaping. They can climb bushes and shrubs with ease, using their semi-prehensile tails to grip branches for additional support. The mice dig shallow burrows, in which they build oval-shaped nests of dry grass and cut plant stems. They are generally active at night, and hibernate for at least six months of the year in an underground burrow. The diet includes seeds, berries and insects.
Habitat
Birch mice inhabit a variety of habitats including forests, subalpine meadows and steppes. The Armenian birch mouse is known from the Lesser Caucasus, where the main habitat type is mixed conifer and broadleaved forest.
Distribution
The species is known only from the type locality at the head of the Marmarik River, Armenia.
Population Estimate
Unknown.
Status
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR A1c, C1) on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats
The species is most at risk from habitat loss caused by illegal logging.
Conservation Underway
The reduced capacity and resources of government agencies make conservation priorities in this area difficult to enforce. In 2003, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) began a five-year $8.5 million investment in the Caucasus region to focus on conserving this hotspot’s threatened species. In 2005 the CEPF established a small grants fund to help implement specific conservation strategies for threatened species inhabiting the Caucasus region. The Armenian birch mouse is one of 50 priority species for conservation attention.
Conservation Proposed
Habitat protection is the main conservation action needed – much of the land in the region is government owned, meaning that it could be protected relatively easily and quickly.
References
Baillie, J. 1996. Sicista armenica. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 09 August 2006.

CEPF E-News. April 2005. An Update from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership fund.

MacDonald, D. (ed.). 2002. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

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

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org


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