Mice roar message: genetic change happens fast

October 19, 2007

While looks can be deceiving, heredity is revealing, and two scientists who've studied the genetic makeup of a common field mouse report that what's most revealing to them is how fast both genes and morphology can change.

Oliver Pergams, visiting research assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Robert Lacy, population geneticist and conservation biologist at the Chicago Zoological Society, compared the genetic makeup of 115 white-footed mice in the Volo Bog State Natural Area northwest of Chicago using mitochondrial DNA taken from collection samples as old as 150 years and mice collected in recent years.

They found a new type of mouse replaced the old type in Volo Bog between 1976 and 2001.

"The new mice were genetically very different," says Pergams. Structural changes were readily apparent. "Looking at size and shape, the new mice were much bigger and a little flatter."

Pergams and Lacy report the findings in Molecular Ecology, Volume 17, now online, and in print in late December.

Pergams and UIC biological sciences professor Mary Ashley reported in 2001 on similar morphological changes in size and shape over the past century of two widely disparate habitats and species -- deer mice on three different California Channel Islands, and black rats from two Galapagos Islands. While Pergams found these coincidental changes surprising, he said it is too soon to say if this is somehow related to world climate change.

Pergams said the Volo Bog change is best explained by the old mice being replaced by new mice migrating from distinct neighboring populations that are better adapted to survival in the protected bog, which is now surrounded by suburban residential communities.

"This was likely helped by the large environmental changes occurring over the 1976-2001 time period. Replacement with better-adapted genotypes from external populations may be a common way evolution works in an increasingly human-impacted world," Pergams said.

Lacy studies and compares changes of Volo Bog mice both in the wild and in subsequent generations of their offspring raised in his laboratory.

"It was surprising to us to see how fast genetic and physical change could occur even in the wild population," he said.

Pergams said a lesson of the surprisingly fast replacement of the mouse types is not to assume that animal populations are constant. He also said there's a message for environmentalists.

"Humans are changing the global environment at unprecedented rates," he said. "Plants and animals react to these massive environmental changes either by going extinct or [by] adapting very rapidly."
-end-


University of Illinois at Chicago

Related Biological Sciences Articles from Brightsurf:

Which is more creative, the arts or the sciences?
International expert in creativity and innovation, UniSA's Professor David Cropley, is calling for Australian schools and universities to increase their emphasis on teaching creativity, as new research shows it is a core competency across all disciplines and critical for ensuring future job success.

Behavioral sciences in the promotion of oral health
The importance and value of behavioral sciences in dentistry has long been recognized and over time behavioral sciences have expanded our understanding of oral health beyond 'disease' to a broader biopsychosocial concept of oral health.

'Big data' for life sciences
Scientists have produced a co-regulation map of the human proteome, which was able to capture relationships between proteins that do not physically interact or co-localize.

Social and behavioral sciences for the intelligence community
The social and behavioral sciences (SBS) offer an essential contribution to the mission of the U.S.

Preventing chemical weapons as sciences converge
Scientists from Bradford warn of increased chemical weapons risk during a period of very rapid scientific change.

Advancing life sciences research with the internet of things
The internet of things (IoT) is allowing scientists to optimize laboratory operations and combine instruments to measure and respond to complex experimental conditions.

When sciences come together
Kyoto University investigates how seemingly separate concepts in scientific fields fuse to become universal approaches by by developing a new methodology to analyze citations in papers that use similar concepts, and tracked the changes over time.

85 new species described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2017
In 2017, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences added 85 new plant and animal species to the family tree, enriching our understanding of Earth's complex web of life and strengthening our ability to make informed conservation decisions.

'Cyberbiosecurity' and protecting the life sciences
Biology and biotechnology have entered a digital age, but security policies around such activities have not kept pace.

When life sciences become data sciences
The University of Freiburg offers Europe-wide infrastructure and service in Bioinformatics.

Read More: Biological Sciences News and Biological Sciences Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.