This dainty creature looks very much like any mouse that you may have seen. However there is a twist in this evolutionary plot as well.
The name of the genus is derived from the flattened (platy-) spines (Greek acantha), while mus refers to a mouse. They resemble dormice and were attached to that genus(Gliridae) for a long time. However, late in the last century, they have been put in this entirely new family, apart from the other Mice(Muridae).
Why, you might ask? Is it just the spiny fur, or is it the tail? Perhaps there is a different glimmer in their so innocent eyes?
Well…no. It’s the teeth actually. With us mammals, the differences and similarities are mostly found in the teeth. Pre-Molars, specifically. Those of this family don’t have them. They have three cheek teeth instead.
This family has only a tenuous relationship, in terms of DNA to the mice we know( and don’t really love). They are an ancient group from before the mice made their way. The lines or bushes of these families diverged some nine million years ago. See below
The family include the Malabar Spiny dormice and the Chinese pygmy dormice. The former occupies the Western Ghats of Indian subcontinent while the latter is to be found in Northern Vietnam and the chinese provinces of Anhui, Fujian, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang.
They both have an unusually bushy tail, perhaps for warmth, and subsist on fruits, seeds and leaves. Both are retiring species and are not easily found or photographed.
The Malabar specie is threatened because of the decimation of its habitat and is listed as vulnerable while the chinese specie is thriving and there is no real concern about it.