Dormice are usually associated with the cold climes and northern forests of Europe and Asia. But there is a ‘dormouse’ that knows nothing of the snowy winters and mild summers of  the northern hemisphere. I am talking about the Malabar Spiny Dormouse (Platacanthomys lasiurus) of South India, a species endemic to the rain forests of the Western Ghats. It is not an actual dormouse (which belong to the family Gliridae). The Gliridae are members of the rodent suborder Sciuromorpha which includes different types of squirrels. The genus Platacanthomys on the other hand, belongs to the family Platacanthomyidae, of the rodent order Myomorpha (made up of blind mole rats, bamboo rats, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils and jerboas).

The species, along with the Chinese Pygmy Dormouse (Typhlomys cinereus), forms an ancient lineage within the suborder. Malabar Spiny Dormice are arboreal creatures, residing in the dense montane forests of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. A nocturnal, frugivorous rodent, they frequent the canopy and nest inside tree holes. Large, pointed ears, enormous whiskers, and a long, furry, tufted tail give it a rather distinct appearance. The back has scattered spiny hairs with white tips. The habitat of the Malabar Spiny Dormouse includes the moist-deciduous, semi-evergreen, evergreen, shola and riparian forests of the Western Ghats. It has been classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, shows a photograph of the Malabar Spiny Dormouse in the Chalakudy Forest of Kerala. The photograph was uploaded by Kalyan Varma.

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