Graphiurus ocularis (Spectacled dormouse)

black-and-white dormouse, Cape dormouse, namtap [English]; gemsbokmuis [Afrikaans]; Brillenbilch [German]; graphiure [French]; sepepe [Setswana]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Euarchontaglires > Glires > Rodentia (rodents) > Sciurognathi > Myoxidae (dormice)

Inhabits sandstone rocky habitats in drier regions of the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Eats mainly invertebrates but also seeds and other plant material. Nocturnal, hiding away in the day mainly in crevices between rocks.


Often mistaken for a small squirrel the Spectacled dormouse is grey to silver-grey in colour with soft fur and a bushy tail. Its face has a short muzzle, large eyes and small rounded ears. As its name suggests the Spectacled dormouse has distinctive dark rings that surround the eye (the ‘spectacles’). A dark line runs from the sides of the muzzle to the shoulders. The lips, cheeks, underparts and the tops of the feet and hands are white. The tail is fringed and tipped with white hair. The skull of the dormouse is dorso-ventrally flattened, which is an adaptation for living in narrow rock crevices. They are excellent and agile climbers. The hands and feet have well-developed plantar tubercules and sharp claws both assist with providing grip while climbing sheer rock faces.


Total length 25 cm; weight 80 g.

Dental Formula

 I C P M = 20

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa. Occurs widely although with a patchy distribution throughout the Northern Cape, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape (excluding the south-western Cape) and the North-West Province. Inhabits sandstone rocky habitats of drier areas in the region.

General behaviour

Spectacled dormice are nocturnal and territorial. They live in crevices between rocks on and near koppies, and they are also found in trees growing near rocky outcrops. Family groups are thought to consist of a pair of adults and the young of the year. Northern hemisphere dormice species all hibernate during winter, but provided sufficient food is available the Spectacled dormouse remains active throughout the year. If food supply is limited or the temperature drops suddenly the animals do become sluggish and torpid for a period of 3 – 4 days. A combination of both these environmental factors can cause hibernation of a month or longer.


Primarily insects but also includes other invertebrates and plant material such as seeds. They are also thought to hunt and eat geckos as well.


The gestation period is 21-32 days. A litter of 4-6 young are born in spring to summer. The pups are born naked and blind. They become independent after about 4-6 weeks. Litters are produced at 6-8 week intervals.

Life span

4 –6 years.


The spectacled dormouse is widespread but uncommon and although rare it is not considered threatened and their current conservation status is regarded as low risk.

Text by Denise Hamerton

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