Dormice use their whiskers to 'see' in the dark

Hazel dormice spend most of their time in trees. But as nocturnal rodents, they have had to find a way to traverse treetops in the dark. 

The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), also known as the common dormouse, is a small arboreal rodent found across Europe and western Asia. It is the only dormouse species native to Britain.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), hazel dormice are in decline in the UK and other parts of their northern range. Fragmentation and loss of key habitats are thought to be the main causes.

Hazel dormice are nocturnal and spend the majority of their time in trees and hedgerows. But scientists have only recently discovered how they freely navigate across gaps in the foliage in the dark.

In the video above, Dr Robyn Grant, a researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University, explains how the small rodents use hypersensitive whiskers to help them get about. 

Dr Grant explains how mammals use their whiskers: 

Life in low light

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Life in the Dark

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Read the full paper on how dormice use their whiskers in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A