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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 3.8 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, these animals live up to 1.5 years. It has been reported that in captivity they may live up to 5 years (Ronald Nowak 1999), which is doubtful. Record longevity in captivity is 3.8 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

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The female gives birth to an average litter of 5 to 6 young after a gestation period of 21 days. Births take place in "high nests", structures built about 100 to 130 cm above the ground. Construction on these nests begins during the spring and summer breeding season, and one nest is built for each litter of young. These nests are globular in shape, about 60 to 130 mm in diameter. They are formed of three layers of grass blades woven tightly together. The lining consists of finely shredded leaves and grass, which form a soft warm nest for the young. There is often more than one entrance, but these holes are kept closed by the female during the first week after parturition, and males are not allowed into the nest at all. Reproduction is usually concentrated during warmer, drier months, starting around April and ending in September. Females are polyestrous, undergo a postpartum estrus, and under the correct favorable conditions, can give birth several times in rapid succession. Because they have a short natural longevity, females usually live through only one or two reproductive seasons in a lifetime, but in captivity they have been known to experience up to nine. Gestation is about 17-18 days, as is the typical minimum interval between litters. The number of young per litter ranges from 1 to 13, but is usually around 3 to 8. The young weigh about a gram at birth, and are 2 cm long. The young are born naked, blind and altricial, but can hold onto a grass stalk as early as three days after birth. They open their eyes at 8 to 10 days, are weaned and leave the nest at 15-16 days, and reach sexual maturity in 35 days. Maximum known longevity in the wild is 16 to 18 months, with few individuals living past 6 months. In captivity, M. minutus can live to be just under 5 years old. (Burton 1969; Grzimek 1990; Nowak 1993)

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

Average birth mass: 0.9 g.

Average gestation period: 20 days.

Average number of offspring: 5.2.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male:
37 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female:
40 days.

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Conservation Status

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Although not endangered, numbers of M. minutus have been greatly reduced by modern agricultural methods, such as combine harvesting, spraying, earlier harvesting, and stubble burning. They also seem to have a three-year pattern of population increase and decline. Every third year, the population apparently crashes, only to be rebuilt over the next two years. It is unclear why this happens. (Burton 1969; Fact-File; Macdonald 1985)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Benefits

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M. minutus consume large amounts of crop yields, either by eating the seeds in the field or feeding on carefully stored grains. Rodent-borne diseases have also been a large influence on the human population, taking more human lives than all wars and revolutions put together. (Macdonald 1985)

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Benefits

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In the wild, M. minutus helps keep populations of crop pests down to a manageable level. (Fact-File; Macdonald 1985)

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Trophic Strategy

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M. minutus eats a variety of seeds, especially grasses, fruit and grain. In the summer, its diet also contains insects and larvae, such as moths, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. It is a very opportunistic feeder and eats whatever is available during the season. In winter, when food is scarce, M. minutus takes advantage of human stores of food and is often found in grain silos or haystacks. In order to facilitate cellulose digestion, these rodents have a large cecum which contains large amounts of bacteria. After the food has been softened and partially digested in the stomach, it passes down through the large intestine and into the cecum, There the cellulose is broken down into digestable carbohydrate constituents. However, absorption can only take place higher in the gut and in the stomach. For this reason, rodents reingest the soft pellets of bacterially digested food after having defecated it. This reingestion allows the digestive system to be highly efficient, assimilating 80 percent of the ingested energy. (Fact-File; Grzimek 1990; Macdonald 1985; Nowak 1983)

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Distribution

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M. minutus lives throughout Europe and northern Asia. Distribution ranges from northwest Spain through most of Europe, across Siberia to Korea, north to about 65 degrees in Russia, south to the northern edge of Mongolia. There are also isolated populations in southern China west through Yunnan. (Wilson 1993)

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Habitat

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M. minutus lives in tropical and subtropical regions and prefers habitats characterized by tall grasses. These would include high meadows, reed grass plots, bushland interspersed with grasses,and grain fields. In Italy and East Asia, they also make a home in rice fields. Population density may be very high in favorable environments. Originally, these mice lived in humid regions with high, long-lasting grasses growing near rivers, ponds, and lakes. With the advent of human encroachment, however, M. minutus has been forced to live along roadsides and in crop fields. When the farmer clears his land for the harvest, this mouse is left homeless. The problem is solved by the mouse either forming a shallow burrow in the soil, or finding shelter in the barn or silo. Not all mice are so lucky, however, and many mice die after being rendered homeless. (Grzimek 1990; Fact-File)

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Life Expectancy

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Average lifespan
Status: wild:
1.5 years.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
5.0 years.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
4.0 years.

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Morphology

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M. minutus a small mouse, ranging in size from 55 to 75 mm long, with a tail that is usually 50 to 75 mm long. It has large eyes and ears, which permits it to see the slightest motions and hear the faintest sounds in the darkness. It has a small, blunt nose encircled by vibrissae. The fur is soft and thick, with the upper parts of the body a brownish color with a yellowish or reddish tinge, and the under parts white to buffy colored. The prehensile tail is bicolored and lacks fur at the very tip, and the feet are fairly broad. The feet are specially adapted for climbing, with the outer of the five toes on each foot being large and more-or-less opposable. This mouse can grip a stem with each hindfoot and its tail, leaving the forepaws free for collecting food. It can also use its tail for balance as it scurries along long grass stems. The fur is somewhat thicker and longer in the winter than in the summer. As with other members of its subfamily, M. minutus has moderately low crowned teeth with rounded cusps on the biting surface arranged in three longitudinal rows. The masseter muscle, as well as the lateral muscle of the jaw, are moved forward on the maxillary, providing very efficient, effective gnawing action. The auditory bullae are large, and it is thought that the size of these resonating chambers enables the mouse to detect low frequency sounds carried over great distances, and thus be better able to escape predation. (Burton 1969; Grzimek 1990; Macdonald 1985; Nowak 1983)

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 6 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.201 W.

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Ivaldi, F. 1999. "Micromys minutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Micromys_minutus.html
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Biology

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Harvest mice have bouts of activity throughout the 24-hour period, but they tend to be more active during the evening and night (5). In summer they become increasingly nocturnal, whereas during the winter they are more active in the day (5). They are adept climbers, and typically feed up in the stalk-zone of long reeds and grasses (2). Depending on the time of year, harvest mice feed on grass seeds, cereals, berries, insects, fruits and the young shoots of grasses (5). The nests of harvest mice are the most complex structures made by any British mammal (3). These spherical nests, constructed by pregnant females, are made of woven grasses and may measure up to 10cm in diameter (2). They are located up to 1 meter above ground in grasses or reeds (2). Breeding takes place between May and October, and when the weather conditions are suitable, they may even continue to breed until December (5). Between 3 and 7 litters are produced a year, each consisting of 1-8 young (5).Births usually occur at night. The female suckles the young until they reach around 9 days of age, at which time they are given their first solid food in the form of chewed seeds (3). When the young reach around 18 days of age, the female may become aggressive towards them, ejecting them from the nest. Upon reaching 6 weeks of age, the young will be able to breed (5). Very few harvest mice live beyond 6 months, although the maximum recorded lifespan is 18 months (5). Main causes of mortality are cold or wet weather, sudden frosts (5), and predation by weasels, stoats, foxes, cats, owls and crows (2).
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Conservation

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This species is not currently legally protected in the UK. Chester Zoo is coordinating a captive breeding and reintroduction programme in the county of Cheshire, in order to reinforce populations in that area. This well-managed captive population provides a safety net for Britain's wild harvest mice, and has enabled successful husbandry and captive breeding methods to be devised. Should the species become threatened in the future, these techniques will be essential in maintaining the species, and the captive population will provide a source of reintroductions to the wild (6).
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Description

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The diminutive harvest mouse is the smallest rodent in Europe, weighing up to just 6g (4). It is easily identified, with its blunt nose (2), short, rounded hairy ears and golden-brown fur (4). Juveniles are grey brown in colour (4). This species is the only British animal to posses a prehensile tail, which is used as a fifth limb; this characteristic is a sure-fire way of identifying a harvest mouse (4).
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Habitat

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This species seems to prefer dry areas, and so its distribution may be affected by summer rainfall (5). They inhabit dry reedbeds, patches of bramble, hay meadows, and some crop fields, particularly where there are winter refuges such as grassy banks (5). They may also occur in hedgerows, field edges and other linear habitats, as well as wasteland in urban sites (5).
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Range

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In Great Britain, harvest mice are restricted to southern parts of England and coastal areas of Wales (5). Outside of this core range there are a number of scattered populations, which are the result of introductions (5).
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Status

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Classified as Lower Risk/ near threatened (LR/nt) by the IUCN Red List (3).
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Threats

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The harvest mouse is susceptible to changes in land use; combine harvesting, burning of stubbles, ploughing, hedge trimming or removal and the use of pesticides all impact on this species (5). Climate change and flooding are also likely to pose a threat (5).
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Brief Summary

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Harvest mice are the smallest rodents in Europe. Their body length is only 5-8 centimeters, plus a 5-centimeter long tail. They live in tall grass, brushwood, dike vegetation, undergrowth, grain and reed fields. They are good climbers, avoiding the ground as much as possible. Nests are made by splitting live blades of grass and rubbing them into a kind of ball. Harvest mice are mostly active at night. They eat seeds, berries, fruit and shoots of grass, as well as mushrooms, moss, plant roots and insects.
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Eurasian harvest mouse

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The harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) is a small rodent native to Europe and Asia. It is typically found in fields of cereal crops, such as wheat and oats, in reed beds and in other tall ground vegetation, such as long grass and hedgerows. It has reddish-brown fur with white underparts and a naked, highly prehensile tail, which it uses for climbing. It is the smallest European rodent; an adult may weigh as little as 4 grams (0.14 oz). It eats chiefly seeds and insects, but also nectar and fruit. Breeding nests are spherical constructions carefully woven from grass and attached to stems well above the ground.

History

The genus Micromys most likely evolved in Asia and is closely related to the long-tailed climbing mouse (Vandeleuria) and the pencil-tailed tree mouse (Chiropodomys).[2] Micromys first emerged in the fossil record in the late Pliocene, with Micromys minutus being recorded from the Early Pleistocene in Germany.[3] They underwent a reduction in range during glacial periods, and were confined to areas in Europe that were free of ice. During the mid-Pleistocene, Micromys minutus specimens also lived in parts of Asia.[4][5][6]. This suggests that they spread towards Asia when the ice sheets started to melt. Other evidence suggests that Micromys minutus could have been introduced accidentally through agricultural activities during Neolithic times.[7]

Before the harvest mouse had been formally described, Gilbert White believed they were an undescribed species, and reported their nests in Selborne, Hampshire:

They never enter into houses; are carried into ricks and barns with the sheaves; abound in harvest; and build their nests amidst the straws of the corn above the ground, and sometimes in thistles. They breed as many as eight at a litter, in a little round nest composed of the blades or grass or wheat. One of these nests I procured this autumn, most artificially platted,[8] and composed of the blades of wheat; perfectly round, and about the size of a cricket-ball. It was so compact and well-filled, that it would roll across the table without being discomposed, though it contained eight little mice that were naked and blind.[9]

Although the harvest mouse was first formally reported by Gilbert White, it was first reported in 1768 by Thomas Pennant.[10]

Conservation efforts have taken place in Britain since 2001. Tennis balls used in play at Wimbledon have been recycled to create artificial nests for harvest mice in an attempt to help the species avoid predation and recover from near-threatened status.[11]

Description

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Portrait

The harvest mouse ranges from 55 to 75 mm (2.2 to 3.0 in) long, and its tail from 50 to 75 mm (2.0 to 3.0 in) long; it weighs from 4 to 11 g (0.14 to 0.39 oz),[12][13] or about half the weight of the house mouse (Mus musculus). Its eyes and ears are relatively large. It has a small nose, with short, stubble-like whiskers, and thick, soft fur, somewhat thicker in winter than in summer[14].

The upper part of the body is brown, sometimes with a yellow or red tinge; the under-parts range from white to cream coloured. It has a prehensile tail which is usually bicoloured and furless at the tip. The mouse's rather broad feet are adapted specifically for climbing, with a somewhat opposable, large outermost toe, allowing it to grip stems with each hindfoot and its tail,[14] thus freeing the mouse's forepaws for food collection. Its tail is also used for balance.

Ecology

Habitat and distribution

The harvest mouse is common in all east coast counties of England, reaching the North York Moors. It also inhabits less favourable habitats, such as woodlands and forests in the west.[7]

Harvest mice reside in a large variety of habitats, from hedgerows to railway banks. Harvest mice seem to have an affinity for all types of cereal heads, except for maize (Zea mays). Harvest mice typically like using monocotyledons for their nest-building, especially the common reed (Phragmites australis) and Siberian iris Iris sibirica.[7] Most harvest mice prefer wetlands for their nesting habitats.[15][16].

Harvest mice in Japan like making wintering nests near the ground from grasses that are dried, which indicates that they require vegetative cover in the winter, as well as in the warmer seasons.[17] Grasslands with a mix of perennials and annual grasses are required to balance the increases in nesting periods and the mice's need to secure nutrients.[18] Habitat selection might be the result of differences in the structure of the landscape of grasslands and wetlands in the area.[18]

Behaviour

Harvest mice are very skilled at climbing among grasses due to their short lactation period of 15-16 days.[19]. They spend most of their life in long grass and other vegetation such as reedbeds, rushes, ditches, cereals and legumes. They grasp leaves and stems with their feet and tail, which leaves their hands free for other tasks. These tasks can include grooming and feeding. Harvest mice have a prehensile tail that functions as an extra limb during climbing [20]. During the lactation period, the pups are able to climb a vertical bar by the time they first emerge from their nest. At 3-7 days they learn hand grasping, and at 6-9 days they learn food grasping. Between 6-11 days, they adopt a quadrupedal stance, and at 10-11 there is tail prehension, and righting at 10-12 days. The righting response in harvest mice develops earlier, but takes longer to master than the other skills the pups learn. They cannot climb horizontally by the time they are weaned, suggesting that horizontal climbing is not as essential as vertical climbing.[21]

Predators

Their predators include domesticated cats, barn owls, tawny owls, long-eared owls, little owls, and kestrels.[7]

Reproduction

In most rodent species, females prefer familiar males to unfamiliar ones.[22] The adaptive preference of mating with familiar males is not uncommon as familiarity is a proxy for quality that is seen in many solitary animals.[23]. Harvest mice are thought to be solitary, and the preference for familiar males over unfamiliar is a mechanism for inbreeding avoidance.[24] There is no size dimorphism between the sexes[25] so the females are considered dominant over the males. Females do not show interest in the male's odor. When females are in oestrus they spend more time with familiar males, and prefer the one that is heavier. While in dioestrus, the female spends more time with unfamiliar males. [26]

In most years in Britain, harvest mice build their first breeding nests in June or July; occasional nests are built earlier in April or early May. They prefer building their breeding nests above ground.[27] In Russia, harvest mouse breeding occurs in November and December in cereal ricks, buckwheat, and other cereal heads.[28]

Conservation

Due to their habitat, harvest mice are threatened by a number of anthropogenic effects such as farming, pesticide use, crop rotation, habitat destruction, fragmentation, and wetland draining.[18] Grasslands in Japan are rapidly decreasing in area, and are also becoming increasingly fragmented [18]. Urbanisation rate is another parameter for habitat destruction; in areas that are being urbanised more quickly, other species in the area will be forced into smaller areas. Spatial relationships between habitat patches are becoming increasingly important in these areas.[29]

Small salamanders require stagnant water in unsuitable habitats in more urban areas and since harvest mice have a similar ability to disperse, there is a risk that they may be forced to adapt to such environments when their preferred habitat is absent in the future.[18][30]

The first survey of the harvest mouse in Britain was conducted by the Mammal Society in the 1970s,[31]. and later followed up by the National Harvest Mouse survey in the late 1990s. These surveys indicated that harvest mouse nests were on a decline with 85% of the suitable habitat no longer available for the mice.[30]

Due to their declining population, the harvest mouse is currently protected under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework: Implementation Plan and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 [32][33].

References

  1. ^ Kryštufek, B.; Lunde, D.P.; Meinig, H.; Aplin, K.; Batsaikhan, N.; Henttonen, H. (2019). "Micromys minutus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T13373A119151882. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T13373A119151882.en.
  2. ^ Schiltter, Duane A.; Misonne, X. (31 August 1973). "African and Indo-Australian Muridae: Evolutionary Trend". Journal of Mammalogy. 54 (3): 795–796. doi:10.2307/1378990.
  3. ^ Storch, G., Franzen, J. L. & Malec, F. (1973) Die altpleistozane Saugerfauna (Mammalia) von Hohensulzen bei Worms. Senckenbergiana lethaea, 54, 311-343.
  4. ^ Zdansky, O. (1928) Die Saugetiere der Quartarfauna von Chou-K’ou-Tien. Palaeontologia sinica, series C, 5(4), 1-146.
  5. ^ Yang, Z. (1934). On the Insectivora, Chiroptera, Rodentia and primates other than Sinanthropus from locality 1 at Choukoutien. Peiping (Peking): Geological survey of China.
  6. ^ Pei, W. C. (1936) On the mammalian remains from locality 3 at Choukoutein. Palaeontologia sinica, series C, 7(5), 1-120.
  7. ^ a b c d Harris, S. (1979). "History, distribution, status and habitat requirements of the harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) in Britain". Mammal Review. 9: 159–171. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.1979.tb00253.x.
  8. ^ "artificially platted": skillfully woven.
  9. ^ White, The Natural History of Selborne, letter xii (4 November 1767).
  10. ^ Pennant, T. (1768) British Zoology, 2, 498. B White, London. https://doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.62499
  11. ^ "'New balls, please' for mice homes". 25 June 2001 – via bbc.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-11-19. Retrieved 2004-09-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Arkive: Micromys minutus". Archived from the original on 2010-08-29. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  14. ^ a b Ivaldi, Francesca. "Micromys minutus". Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  15. ^ Rands, D.G. & Banks, C. (1973) The harvest mouse Micromys minutus in Bedfordshire: interim report. Bedfordshire Naturalist, 28, 35-41.
  16. ^ Dillon, P. & Browne, M. (1975) Habitat selection and nest ecology of the harvest mouse Micromys minutus (Pallas). Wiltshire Natural History Magazine, 70, 3-9.
  17. ^ Ishiwaka, R.; Yinoshita, Y.; et al. (July 2010). "Overwintering in nests on the ground in the harvest mouse". Landscape and Ecological Engineering. 6 (2): 335–342. doi:10.1007/s11355-010-0108-1.
  18. ^ a b c d e Sawabe, K.; Natahura, Y. (October 2016). "Extensive distribution models of the harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) in different landscapes". Global Ecology and Conservation. 8: 108–115. doi:10.1016/j.gecco.2016.08.011.
  19. ^ Ishiwaka, R. & Mori, T. 1998. Regurgitation feeding of young in harvest mice, Micromys minutus (Muridae, Rodentia). Journal of Mammalogy, 79, 1911–1917.
  20. ^ Layne, J. N. 1959. Growth and development of the eastern harvest mouse, Reithrodontomys humulis. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum. Biological Science, 4, 59–82.
  21. ^ Ishiwaka, R. & Mori, T. 1999. Early development of climbing skills in harvest mice, Micromys minutus (Muridae, Rodentia). Animal Behavior, 58, 203-209.
  22. ^ Coopersmith, C. B.& Banks, E. M.1983. Effects of olfactory cues on sexual-behavior in the brown lemming, Lemmus trimucronatus. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 97,120-126.
  23. ^ Randall, J. A., Hekkala, E. R., Cooper, L. D. & Barfield, J. 2002. Familiarity and flexible mating strategies of a solitary rodent, Dipodomys ingens. Animal Behaviour, 64, 11-21.
  24. ^ Pusey, A. & Wolf, M. 1996. Inbreeding avoidance in animals. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 11, 201-206.
  25. ^ Harris, S. & Trout, R. C. 1991. Harvest mouse Micromys minutus. In: The Handbook of British Mammals (Ed. by G. B. Corbet & S. Harris), pp. 233-239. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific.
  26. ^ Brandt, R.; Macdonald, D.W. 2011. To know him is to love him? Familiarity and female preference in the harvest mouse, Micromys minutus. In: Animal Behaviour, 82(2):353-358.
  27. ^ Harris, S. (1979), Breeding season, litter size and nestling mortality of the harvest mouse, Micromys minutus (Rodentia: Muridae), in Britain. Journal of Zoology, 188: 437-442. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1979.tb03427.x
  28. ^ Sleptsov, M. M. (1948). [The breeding habitat of the Japanese Harvest mouse, Micromys minutus ussuricus Barr.-Ham.] Fauna Ekol. Gryzunov 2: 69-100.
  29. ^ Fahrig, L. & Merriam, G. (1985), Habitat Patch Connectivity and Population Survival. Ecology, 66: 1762-1768. doi:10.2307/2937372
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Eurasian harvest mouse: Brief Summary

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The harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) is a small rodent native to Europe and Asia. It is typically found in fields of cereal crops, such as wheat and oats, in reed beds and in other tall ground vegetation, such as long grass and hedgerows. It has reddish-brown fur with white underparts and a naked, highly prehensile tail, which it uses for climbing. It is the smallest European rodent; an adult may weigh as little as 4 grams (0.14 oz). It eats chiefly seeds and insects, but also nectar and fruit. Breeding nests are spherical constructions carefully woven from grass and attached to stems well above the ground.

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