A molecular characterization of the charismatic Faroe house mouse

Eleanor P. Jones, Jens Kjeld Jensen, Eyðfinn Magnussen, Noomi Gregersen, Heidi S. Hansen, Jeremy B. Searle

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Faroe house mice are a 'classic' system of rapid and dramatic morphological divergence highlighted by J. S. Huxley during the development of the Modern Synthesis. In the present study, we characterize these charismatic mice using modern molecular techniques, examining specimens from all Faroe islands occupied by mice. The aims were to classify the mice within the modern house mouse taxonomy (i.e. as either Mus musculus domesticus or Mus musculus musculus) using four molecular markers and a morphological feature, and to examine the genetic diversity and possible routes of colonization using mitochondrial (mt) control region DNA sequences and microsatellite data (15 loci). Mice on the most remote islands were characterized as M. m. domesticus and exhibited exceptionally low genetic diversity, whereas those on better connected islands were more genetically diverse and had both M. m. musculus and M. m. domesticus genetic elements, including one population which was morphologically M. m. musculus-like. The mtDNA data indicate that the majority of the mice had their origins in south-western Norway (or possibly southern Denmark/northern Germany), and probably arrived with the Vikings, earlier than suggested by Huxley. The M. m. musculus genetic component appears to derive from recent mouse immigration from Denmark. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-482
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Human commensal
  • Hybridization
  • Introgression
  • Mus musculus domesticus
  • Mus musculus musculus
  • Phylogeography


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