Pencil-tailed tree mouse (Chiropodomys gliroides)

Chiropodomys (or pencil-tailed tree mice) is a genus of Old World rats and mice native to Southeast Asia and Indonesia. They are tree-dwelling, very small mice, mostly found in tropical rainforest. In total six extant species have been identified, but only one of these, Chiropodomys gliroides, is common and widely distributed, and has been extensively studied.

Range Description:

This widespread species is present in North Eastern India, South China (including Hainan island), Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, eastern Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia (Java, Southern Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands and other islands) (Musser and Carleton 2005). It occurs between sea level to 1,600 m (Molur et al. 2005).
Countries: Native:
Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Thailand; Vietnam

Arboreal, found in primary and secondary forest; it does not appear to be restricted to a particular forest type and specimens have been obtained from tropical moist deciduous forest and evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forests on lowlands, coastal plains, and hills, and from the montane evergreen rain forests on mountains and plateaus (Musser 1979). It can be found in very degraded habitat with some forest. In South Asia, it is found in tropical and subtropical dry deciduous forest where it is seen among primary and secondary forests with abundance of bamboo and also in coastal habitats and hills. Bamboo species with moderate girths are favoured nesting sites between 1 to 3 m high from the ground (Molur et al. 2005).
Systems: Terrestrial


Species of Chiropodomys have a body length of 7 to 12 cm, plus a tail of 9 to 17 cm.Head-Body Length : Up to 10 cm
Tail Length : Up to 14 cm Weight : Up to 35 gm They are generally grey or brown on the back and white underneath. The tail is only sparsely covered with hair, This small mouse is characterised by its relatively long tail, which is equivalent to 135% of the head-body length. The soft fur on the upperparts varies from pale fawn to pale grey, and the underparts are white. The tail is generally hairy, ending in a brush-like tip. The head is short, the eyes relatively large, the ears rounded, and the whiskers long. but has somewhat more at the end, giving the appearance of a pencil, thus the genus name.


Chiropodomys gliroides is particularly common in bamboo forest. It is active at night, sleeps during the day in a nest in the bamboo, padded with leaves. It eats exclusively plants. It lives in the bamboo internodes reached by way of a neat round hole, 22mm in diameter chiselled by the mouse. They have been found in the  daytime high up in a flowering tree in Chantaburi, Thailand.

A close connection between Chiropodomys and the genus Hapalomys (marmoset rats) is accepted. The Haeromys (pygmy tree mice) are also thought to be closely related. On the other hand, an earlier-posited connection with Crateromys (cloudrunners) is no longer considered probable.


 It can be locally abundant, although it is patchily distributed.
Population Trend: Stable

Major Threat(s):

Overall, there appear to be no major threats to this species other than heavy deforestation. The major threats of the species in South Asia include, habitat loss due to jhum (shifting) cultivation, small-scale logging, forest fires, clearing of bamboo patches, expansion of human settlements and dam constructions. It is also in local trade where it is harvested for consumption (Molur et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions:

It is present in many protected areas (eg. Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh, India). In India it is listed in the Schedule V (considered as vermin) of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.