Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Apodemus sylvaticus

Another day, another piece of natural history, courtesy of our resident furry psychopath (FP), who has been on something of a killing spree these last five days - catching two blackbirds (one male, one female), a "probable rat" (identification based on a single scrap of bloody fur and unusually large entrails), one robin, two tiny birds with yellow plumage (unidentified as yet), and, this morning, a fine specimen of Apodemus sylvaticus, ("Wood Mouse").

Apodemus sylvaticus

This gorgeous little animal lives an inoffensive life, eating mostly seeds and nuts, which it will often hoard, squirrel-like, against leaner days; its other trick for eking out a living during hard winters is to reduce its metabolic rate, allowing its body temperature to plummet and saving lots of calories. It is a successful little creature, with a range extending from Western Asia to Ireland, a country where it has been living for at least 7,000 years. According to my reference book, it enjoys the unfortunate distinction of being a "very important source of food" for all sorts of predators, from long-eared owls to domestic cats. To add insult to injury, it is often mistaken for the common house mouse - hence the Latin name Apo (not) demus (or domus, house) sylvaticus (of the woods) - "not house, wood (mouse".

Burial service this evening; no flowers, please.

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