Mice are evolving, and fast. It turns out that mice living in New York City are evolving to better adapt to their new environment. A team of scientists has captured several white-footed mice from parks in New York City to find out if they had been adapting to the urban ecosystem, and they found out that there is a degree of genetic adaptation.
Human habitats disrupt natural ecosystems, causing changes in food availability. Humans also travel and conduct commerce, which adds new, non-native species to an area. These elements will come together and create new species interactions, which drive intense evolutionary changes over a short period of time.
The researchers gathered 24 urban mice from locations such as Flushing Meadows, the New York Botanical Gardens, and Central Park, along with 24 rural mice from state parks in Long Island, New Jersey and Hudson Valley. They then extracted and analyzed genetic material from the liver of these mice.
This analysis revealed that the city mice had less genetic diversity and that they had developed mutations in the genes that handle digestion. The theory is that the urban mice had lower quality food at their disposal but in much higher abundance. Some of the researchers believed that this indicated a diet richer in pizza and cheeseburgers, while others believed that there is a difference in the availability of certain insects and plants in the urban parks.
What does this mean?
At the moment the results of this research do not really indicate a huge genetic variation between urban and rural rats, but it does signal that mice adapt very rapidly to changes in their environment.
If you live in New York, or any other large city keeping mice out of your apartment should be a top priority, since these pests can carry a variety of diseases including salmonella, gardia, hantavirus and even the plague.
In order to do this, you can keep an eye out for signs of a rodent infestation, since you are unlikely to see an actual mouse running around your home (although that does happen occasionally). Make sure to keep an eye out for gnaw marks, grease stains on your carpets, floors and walls, and mouse droppings. You may also hear gnawing noises at night, and find pieces of food scattered throughout the home.
If you detect an infestation, you have several options at your disposal. First, you could use traps, but this method would only work in the early stages of an infestation, when the mouse colony is small. If the colony is larger, you can use poisons, but this option is risky because the mice will often die in hard to reach places, and their bodies could start rotting in your apartment. Finally, you have the most effective option of calling an exterminator, who will have the tools and expertise needed to destroy a mouse colony completely. If you have a mouse infestation and would like to hire a pest control specialist, contact us today.