Golden mouse (Ochrotomys nuttalli)

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Golden mouse
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The scientific name of the golden mouse comes from two Greek words: ‘ochra’, meaning pale yellow, and ‘mys’, meaning mouse.
  • The tail of the golden mouse is used for balancing and holding onto tree branches.
  • The golden mouse builds two types of nest: one for eating in and one for resting and living.
  • The female golden mouse can be impregnated almost immediately after giving birth.
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Golden mouse fact file

Golden mouse description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyCricetidae
GenusOchrotomys (1)

The strikingly beautiful pelage of the golden mouse (Ochrotomys nuttali) is extremely dense and soft, and its colour can vary between gold-cinnamon or burnt orange on the upperparts (2) (3) (4). The contrasting underside and feet are white or cream, although they may be slightly washed yellow-brown (2) (4). The scientific name of this species comes from the Greek word, ‘ochra’ meaning ‘pale yellow’, and ‘mys’, meaning ‘mouse’ (5).

The rounded, leaf-like ears of the golden mouse are the same colour as the upperside of the body, while its tail is almost bald and is shorter in length than the head and body (4). The golden mouse is extremely agile within its arboreal habitat, and its tail is used to grasp branches when moving from tree to tree (2). The whiskers on the face of this rodent are black or grey (3).

There are currently five recognised subspecies of the golden mouse: Ochrotomys nuttali nuttali, Ochrotomys nuttali aureolus, Ochrotomys nuttali flammeus, Ochrotomys nuttali floridanus and Ochrotomys nuttali lisae, which differ in their distribution (3).

Size
Head-body length: 5.1 - 11.5 cm (2) (3)
Tail length: 5 - 9.7 cm (2) (3)
Weight
15 - 30 g (2)
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Golden mouse biology

The golden mouse builds two different types of nest, with one used as a feeding platform and the other used for resting (2) (3). Within its home range, an individual will build several nests, with a ratio of around six feeding platforms to one resting nest (4). The spherical nests are usually located between 1.5 and 4.5 metres from the ground (2) (3), although they have been found as high as 10 metres (3). The nest structures have two distinct layers, with the outer layer consisting mostly of leaves, grass or moss, and with bark, grass, feathers and fur in the centre (2) (3). The average nest is usually up to 20 centimetres wide, and has a small entry hole at one end with an average diameter of around 2.5 centimetres (3). The two nest types are similar in appearance, although the feeding platforms are usually less bulky (2) (3). Both nest structures are generally placed within vines, in the forks of tree branches or in tree hollows (4). Throughout periods of hot weather, the golden mouse may also build nests on the ground, which are hidden in tree stumps or underneath logs (3).

This gregarious species is not territorial, and the home ranges of many individuals may overlap, with as many as eight golden mice occupying the same resting nest (3), as well as sharing feeding platforms (2). Activity can be either nocturnal or crepuscular, although activity generally peaks around dusk and dawn (1) (3). The golden mouse forages among the trees for seeds, nuts, berries, buds, fruit, leaves and insects (1) (4). The prehensile tail of the golden mouse is used for climbing and moving through the trees, as well as for anchoring itself to the tree while it sleeps (3).

The breeding season of the golden mouse is variable throughout its range (2) (3) (4), although it usually occurs between April and October (1). The gestation period lasts for 25 to 30 days, after which the female has a litter of between 1 and 4 young (1) (2) (3) (4). After 11 to 14 days, the young begin to open their eyes and they are fully weaned after 17 to 21 days. Eight to ten weeks after birth the golden mouse reaches its full adult size (2) (3). A female golden mouse may have several litters per year after it becomes sexually mature at around two months old (4).

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Golden mouse range

The golden mouse is found in the southeastern United States, including Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida and Illinois (1) (2) (3) (4).

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Golden mouse habitat

The golden mouse is found in a variety of habitats (3), including moist thickets, forests and field edges (1) (3). This species lives in close association with honeysuckle (Lonicera species) and greenbrier (Smilax species) (2) (3), favouring moist areas with dense vegetation (4). An arboreal species, the golden mouse nests and forages above the ground in vines, bushes and trees (2).

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Golden mouse status

The golden mouse is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Golden mouse threats

There are not currently known to be any threats to the golden mouse.

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Golden mouse conservation

There are not currently known to be any conservation measures in place for the golden mouse, although its range includes many protected areas (1).

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Find out more

Find out more about the golden mouse:

Find out more about the conservation of North American rodents:

  • Hafner, D.J., Yensen, E. and Kirkland Jr, G.L. (1998) North American Rodents: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Rodent Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/1998-039.pdf
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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Arboreal
An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
Crepuscular
Active at dusk and/or dawn.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Pelage
The coat of a mammal, composed of fur, hair or wool.
Prehensile
Capable of grasping.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Territorial
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1.  IUCN Red List (October, 2013)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  3. Linzey, D.W. and Packard, R.L. (1977) Ochrotomys nuttali. Mammalian Species, 75: 1-6. Available at:
    http://www.science.smith.edu/msi/pdf/i0076-3519-075-01-0001.pdf
  4. Brown, L.N. (1997) A Guide to the Mammals of the Southeastern United States. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee.
  5. Sealander, J.A. and Heidt, G.A. (1990) Arkansas Mammals: Their Natural History, Classification, and Distribution. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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Image credit

Golden mouse  
Golden mouse

© Dr Edward Pivorun

Dr Edward Pivorun
Dept of Biological Sciences,
Clemson University,
Clemson
SC 29634
United States of America
Tel: 864 506 5706
ebpvr@clemson.edu

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