A fluffy pollinator
Hidden in the flower meadows of the Great Plains, tiny flower mice live their lives mostly unnoticed by people. Despite their low profile, they play an important role in the life cycle of the meadows, as many of the plants and flowers there rely on them for pollination.Flower mice see only in greyscale, but they have an extremely sensitive sense of smell. This allows them to pick out individual flowers from the meadow where they live, discriminating by species and if they are in season.
Thought to be the smallest rodent species on the continent, flower mice rarely grow to more than 2cm long, including their tail. Their strong prehensile tail is normally as long as their body and covered in soft fur. The tail is used for climbing, alongside their deceptively strong paws. They have dark, reddish fur across the whole of their bodies, and round black eyes. Male flower mice have cheek pouches which allow them to carry food back to the nest for their mate when she is nursing young.
HabitatFlower mice live exclusively in the flower meadows on the Great Plains of Serukis. In preparation for winter, flower mice create woven nests at ground level in sheltered area of the meadows. These nests contain a store of food, and breeding groups of mice rely on each other for body warmth.
DietFlower mice eat a varied diet of seeds, insects, and nectar. Their food stores for the winter consist almost entirely of seeds, as that is what stores best for long periods of time. During the summer, the mice gorge themselves on sweet nectar when the supply is at its highest.
ReproductionFlower mice mate for life in groups of three - two males to one female. To prepare for breeding, the group will build a round nest of woven grass on a strong flower stem, using their paws and tails to aid in the construction. This allows a safe, enclosed environment for the pregnant mother and for them to raise their kits. Female flower mice are sexually mature around three months old, and can give birth to an average of four litters in her lifetime. The gestation period for a flower mouse is about three weeks, and a pregnancy usually results in between one and three kits. Kits are entirely dependent on their mothers for the first month of their lives, suckling her for milk. During this time, the two male partners will bring nectar back to the nest in their cheek pouches for the mother to feed on. Breeding occurs in late spring to summer, so usually a group will raise two litters a year.
PollinationPerhaps surprisingly, flower mice are one of the most effective pollinators in the meadows. During the warm summer and autumn months, single mice who have not yet found a breeding group sleep in flowers instead of building themselves nests. This leaves them coated in pollen, which they then transfer when looking for food the next day. As the mice eat nectar and seeds, this ensures a steady trek from flower to flower. Several flowers have specifically adapted to attract flower mice over any other pollinator. The trumpet lily, for example, has a strong smelling nectar and a deep flower that makes a perfect nest for a tired flower mouse.
by Nick Fewings