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House mouse

House mouse
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae
Subfamily: Murinae
Genus: Mus
Subgenus: Mus
Species: M. musculus
Binomial name
Mus musculus
Linnaeus, 1758
  • Mus musculus bactrianus
  • Mus musculus castaneus
  • Mus musculus domesticus
  • Mus musculus gentilulus
  • Mus musculus musculus
House mouse range

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is a small mammal of the order Rodentia, characteristically having a pointed snout, small rounded ears, and a long naked or almost hairless tail. It is one of the most numerous species of the genus Mus. Although a wild animal, the house mouse mainly lives in association with humans.

The house mouse has been biology and medicine. The complete mouse reference genome was sequenced in 2002.[2][3] It is by far the most commonly genetically altered mammal in scientific research.[4]


  • Characteristics 1
  • Taxonomy and subspecies 2
  • Behaviour 3
  • Social behaviour 4
  • Senses and communication 5
    • Vision 5.1
    • Olfaction 5.2
    • Touch 5.3
  • Life cycle and reproduction 6
    • Polygamy 6.1
      • Evolutionary and Behavioural Consequences 6.1.1
    • Polyandry 6.2
      • Variation 6.2.1
      • Evolutionary explanation 6.2.2
        • Avoidance of inbreeding depression
        • Increased insemination
      • Evolutionary consequences 6.2.3
        • Paternity confusion
        • Intrauterine Insemination
  • Life expectancy 7
  • Mice and humans 8
    • Mice and diseases 8.1
    • Invasive species 8.2
    • In folk culture 8.3
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11
    • Taxonomy 11.1
    • Genetics 11.2
    • Media 11.3
    • Further reading 11.4


House mice have an adult body length (nose to base of tail) of 7.5–10 cm (3.0–3.9 in) and a tail length of 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in). The weight is typically 10–25 g (0.4–0.9 oz). In the wild they vary in color from light to dark [7][8] House mice thrive under a variety of conditions; they are found in and around homes and commercial structures, as well as in open fields and agricultural lands.

Newborn males and females can be distinguished on close examination as the anogenital distance in males is about double that of the female.[9] From the age of about 10 days, females have five pairs of mammary glands and nipples; males have no nipples.[10] When sexually mature, the most striking and obvious difference is the presence of testicles on the males. These are large compared to the rest of the body and can be retracted into the body.

The tail, which is used for balance,[11][12][13] has only a thin covering of hair as it is the main peripheral organ of heat loss in thermoregulation[12] along with — to a lesser extent — the hairless parts of the paws and ears. Blood flow to the tail can be precisely controlled in response to changes in ambient temperature using a system of arteriovenous anastomoses to increase the temperature of the skin on the tail by as much as 10 °C to lose body heat.[14] Tail length varies according to the environmental temperature of the mouse during postnatal development, so mice living in colder regions tend to have shorter tails.[5] The tail is also used for balance when the mouse is climbing or running, or as a base when the animal stands on its hind legs (a behaviour known as tripoding), and to convey information about the dominance status of an individual in encounters with other mice.[15]

In addition to the regular pea-sized

  • Nature Mouse Special 2002
  • Biology of Laboratory Rodents by David G. Besselsen
  • House Mouse Fact Sheet from the National Pest Management Association with information on habits, habitat and health threats
  • Comprehensive house mouse information, including pictures, by the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
  • 'Fancy Mice', includes much behavioral and physiological information
  • Some information on muricide
  • Vocalizations during copulation

Further reading

  • Mus musculusPictures, movies and applets showing the anatomy of , from
  • Arkive Photographs.Short text.
  • Mus musculusHigh-Resolution Brain Maps and Brain Atlases of




External links

  • Nyby, John G. (2001). "Auditory Communication among Adults". In Willott, James F. Handbook of Mouse Auditory Research: From Behavior to Molecular Biology. CRC Press. pp. 3–18.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Musser G, Amori G, Hutterer R, Kryštufek B, Yigit N & Mitsain G (2008). Mus musculus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  2. ^ Gregory, Simon G.; Sekhon, Mandeep; Schein, Jacqueline; Zhao, Shaying; Osoegawa, Kazutoyo; Scott, Carol E.; Evans, Richard S.; Burridge, Paul W.; Cox, Tony V.; Fox, Christopher A.; Hutton, Richard D.; Mullenger, Ian R.; Phillips, Kimbly J.; Smith, James; Stalker, Jim; Threadgold, Glen J.; Birney, Ewan; Wylie, Kristine; Chinwalla, Asif; Wallis, John; Hillier, Ladeana; Carter, Jason; Gaige, Tony; Jaeger, Sara; Kremitzki, Colin; Layman, Dan; Maas, Jason; McGrane, Rebecca; Mead, Kelly; et al. (2002). "A physical map of the mouse genome". Nature 418 (6899): 743–50.  
  3. ^ Chinwalla, Asif T.; Cook, Lisa L.; Delehaunty, Kimberly D.; Fewell, Ginger A.; Fulton, Lucinda A.; Fulton, Robert S.; Graves, Tina A.; Hillier, Ladeana W.; Mardis, Elaine R.; McPherson, John D.; Miner, Tracie L.; Nash, William E.; Nelson, Joanne O.; Nhan, Michael N.; Pepin, Kymberlie H.; Pohl, Craig S.; Ponce, Tracy C.; Schultz, Brian; Thompson, Johanna; Trevaskis, Evanne; Waterston, Robert H.; Wendl, Michael C.; Wilson, Richard K.; Yang, Shiaw-Pyng; An, Peter; Berry, Eric; Birren, Bruce; Bloom, Toby; Brown, Daniel G.; et al. (2002). "Initial sequencing and comparative analysis of the mouse genome". Nature 420 (6915): 520–62.  
  4. ^ "The behaviour of laboratory mice as an indicator of welfare state in genetically modified mice". NC3Rs. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Berry, R.J. (1970). "The natural history of the house mouse" (PDF). Field Studies (Field Studies Council) 3: 219–62. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Baker RO, Bodman GR, Timm RM (1994). "Rodent-Proof Construction and Exclusion Methods". In Hygnstrom SE, Timm RM, Larson GE. Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 
  7. ^ Lyneborg L (1971). Mammals of Europe. Blandford Press. 
  8. ^ Lawrence MJ, & Brown RW (1974). Mammals of Britain Their Tracks, Trails and Signs. Blandford Press. 
  9. ^ Hotchkiss, A. K.; Vandenbergh, J. G. (2005). "The anogenital distance index of mice (Mus musculus domesticus): An analysis". Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science 44 (4): 46–8.  
  10. ^ Mayer, Julie Ann; Foley, John; de la Cruz, Damon; Chuong, Cheng-Ming; Widelitz, Randall (2008). "Conversion of the Nipple to Hair-Bearing Epithelia by Lowering Bone Morphogenetic Protein Pathway Activity at the Dermal-Epidermal Interface". The American Journal of Pathology 173 (5): 1339–48.  
  11. ^ Greene, Eunice Chace (1935). Anatomy of the Rat. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 27.  
  12. ^ a b Siegel, Michael I. (1970). "The tail, locomotion and balance in mice". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 33: 101–2.  
  13. ^ Buck, C. W.; Tolman, N.; Tolman, W. (November 1925). "The Tail as a Balancing Organ in Mice". Journal of Mammalogy 6 (4): 267–71.  
  14. ^ Le Bars, D; Gozariu, M; Cadden, S. W. (2001). "Animal models of nociception". Pharmacological reviews 53 (4): 597–652.  
  15. ^ Drickamer, Lee C. (2005). "Use of the tail for communication in house mice". In Sánchez-Cordero, Víctor; Medellín, Rodrigo A. Contribuciones mastozoológicas en homenaje a Bernardo Villa [Mammal Collection in Honor of Bernardo Villa] (in Spanish). UNAM. pp. 157–62.  
  16. ^ Terszowski, G.; Müller, Susanna M.; Bleul, Conrad C.; Blum, Carmen; Schirmbeck, Reinhold; Reimann, Jörg; Du Pasquier, Louis; Amagai, Takashi; Boehm, Thomas; Rodewald, Hans-Reimer (2006). "Evidence for a Functional Second Thymus in Mice". Science 312 (5771): 284–7.  
  17. ^ Mitchell-Jones, A J; Amori, G; Bogdanowicz, W; Kryštufek, B; Reijnders, P J H; Spitzenberger, F; Stubbe, M; Thissen, J B M; Vohralík, V; Zima, J (1999). The Atlas of European Mammals. T. & A. D. Poyser.  
  18. ^ a b c Musser, Guy G.; Carleton, Michael D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 894–1531.  
  19. ^ Prager, E. M.; Orrego, C; Sage, R. D. (1998). "Genetic variation and phylogeography of central Asian and other house mice, including a major new mitochondrial lineage in Yemen". Genetics 150 (2): 835–61.  
  20. ^ Hilscher-Conklin, Caryl (1998). "Rattus Biologicus: Coprophagy: Healthy Behavior For Your Rats". Rat & Mouse Gazette. 
  21. ^ Horn, Charles C.; Kimball, Bruce A.; Wang, Hong; Kaus, James; Dienel, Samuel; Nagy, Allysa; Gathright, Gordon R.; Yates, Bill J.; Andrews, Paul L. R. (2013). "Why Can't Rodents Vomit? A Comparative Behavioral, Anatomical, and Physiological Study". PLoS ONE 8 (4): e60537.  
  22. ^ Tattersall, Françoise H.; Smith, R. H.; Nowell, F. (1997). "Experimental colonisation of contrasting habitats by house mice". Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde 62 (6): 350–8. 
  23. ^ Moro, Dorian; Morris, Keith (2000). "Movements and refugia of Lakeland Downs short-tailed mice, Leggadina lakedownensis, and house mice, Mus domesticus, on Thevenard Island, Western Australia". Wildlife Research 27 (1): 11–20.  
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Frynta, Daniel; Slábová, Markéta; Váchová, Hana; Volfová, Radka; Munclinger, Pavel (2005). "Aggression and commensalism in house mouse: A comparative study across Europe and the near east". Aggressive Behavior 31 (3): 283–93.  
  25. ^ a b c d Gray, Samantha J; Hurst, Jane L (1997). "Behavioural mechanisms underlying the spatial dispersion of commensal Mus domesticusand grassland Mus spretus". Animal Behaviour 53 (3): 511–24.  
  26. ^ Wolff, Robert J. (2009). "Mating behaviour and female choice: Their relation to social structure in wild caught House mice (Mus musculus) housed in a semi-natural environment". Journal of Zoology 207: 43–51.  
  27. ^ a b Szenczi, Peter; Bánszegi, Oxana; Groó, Zita; Altbäcker, Vilmos (2012). "Development of the Social Behavior of Two Mice Species with Contrasting Social Systems". Aggressive Behavior 38 (4): 288–97.  
  28. ^ a b Dobson, F Stephen; Baudoin, Claude (2002). "Experimental tests of spatial association and kinship in monogamous mice (Mus spicilegus) and polygynous mice (Mus musculus domesticus)". Canadian Journal of Zoology 80 (6): 980–6.  
  29. ^ Gerlach, Gabriele (1996). "Emigration mechanisms in feral house mice - a laboratory investigation of the influence of social structure, population density, and aggression". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 39 (3): 159–70.  
  30. ^ a b Odling Smee, Lucy (2007). "Mice made to see a rainbow of colours". News@nature.  
  31. ^ Calderone, Jack B.; Jacobs, Gerald H. (2009). "Regional variations in the relative sensitivity to UV light in the mouse retina". Visual Neuroscience 12 (3): 463–8.  
  32. ^ Yokoyama, Shozo; Shi, Yongsheng (2000). "Genetics and evolution of ultraviolet vision in vertebrates". FEBS Letters 486 (2): 167–72.  
  33. ^ Neitz, Maureen; Neitz, Jay (2001). "The uncommon retina of the common house mouse". Trends in Neurosciences 24 (5): 248–50.  
  34. ^ Kimoto, Hiroko; Haga, Sachiko; Sato, Koji; Touhara, Kazushige (2005). "Sex-specific peptides from exocrine glands stimulate mouse vomeronasal sensory neurons". Nature 437 (7060): 898–901.  
  35. ^ Chamero, Pablo; Marton, Tobias F.; Logan, Darren W.; Flanagan, Kelly; Cruz, Jason R.; Saghatelian, Alan; Cravatt, Benjamin F.; Stowers, Lisa (2007). "Identification of protein pheromones that promote aggressive behaviour". Nature 450 (7171): 899–902.  
  36. ^ Achiraman, S.; Archunan, G. (2002). "Characterization of urinary volatiles in Swiss male mice (Mus musculus): Bioassay of identified compounds". Journal of Biosciences 27 (7): 679–86.  
  37. ^ Rauschecker, J. P.; Tian, B.; Korte, M.; Egert, U. (1992). "Crossmodal changes in the somatosensory vibrissa/barrel system of visually deprived animals". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 89 (11): 5063–7.  
  38. ^ Sokolov, V. E.; Tikhonova, G. N.; Tikhonov, I. A. (1996). "[The role of sensory systems in the behavior of Ryukyu mice (Mus caroli Banhote, 1902)]". Izvestiia Akademii nauk. Seriia biologicheskaia (in Russian) (2): 169–75.  
  39. ^ Holy, Timothy E.; Guo, Zhongsheng (2005). "Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice". PLoS Biology 3 (12): e386.  
  40. ^ Firman, Renée C.; Simmons, Leigh W. (2010-05-01). "Experimental Evolution of Sperm Quality Via Postcopulatory Sexual Selection in House Mice". Evolution 64 (5): 1245–1256.  
  41. ^ "Mouse Husbandry, Breeding and Development". University of Carolina, Irvine, Transgenic Mouse Facility Guidelines. University of Carolina. Archived from the original on July 4, 2007. 
  42. ^ Dobson, F Stephen; Baudoin, Claude (June 2002). "Experimental tests of spatial association and kinship in monogamous mice ( ) and polygynous mice ( )". Canadian Journal of Zoology 80 (6): 980–986.  
  43. ^ Dobson, F Stephen; Jacquot, Catherine; Baudoin, Claude (October 2000). "An experimental test of kin association in the house mouse". Canadian Journal of Zoology 78 (10): 1806–1812.  
  44. ^ Firman, R. C.; Simmons, L. W. (7 March 2008). "Polyandry, sperm competition, and reproductive success in mice". Behavioral Ecology 19 (4): 695–702.  
  45. ^ Patris, B; Baudoin, C (October 2000). "A comparative study of parental care between two rodent species: implications for the mating system of the mound-building mouse Mus spicilegus". Behavioural Processes 51 (1-3): 35–43.  
  47. ^ Klemme, Ines; Firman, Renée Claire (April 2013). "Male house mice that have evolved with sperm competition have increased mating duration and paternity success". Animal Behaviour 85 (4): 751–758.  
  48. ^ a b c d Thonhauser, K. E., Thob, M., Musolf, K., Klaus, T., Penn, D. J. 2014. "Multiple paternity in wild house mice (Mus musculus musculus): effects on offspring genetic diversity and body mass". Ecology and evolution. 4: 200–209.
  49. ^ a b Dean, M.D., Ardlie, K.G., Nachman, M.W. 2006. The frequency of multiple paternity suggests that sperm competition is common in house mice (Mus domesticus). Molecular ecology. 15: 4141-4151
  50. ^ Firman, R.C., Simmons, L.W. 2008. Polyandry facilitates postcopulatory inbreeding avoidance in house mice. Evolution. 62: 603-611.
  51. ^ Firman, R., Simmons, L. 2007. Polyandry, sperm competition, and reproductive success in mice. Behavioral Ecology. 19(4): 695-702.
  52. ^ Auclair, Y., Konig, B., Lindholm, A. 2014. Socially mediated polyandry: a new benefit of communal nesting in mammals. Behavioral Ecology. 00:1-7
  53. ^ "Latest Mprize Winners". Andrzej Bartke Mprize for Longevity. Methuselah Foundation. 2003–2013. Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
  54. ^ Connor, Steve (31 Oct 2004). "Oldest mouse in captivity wins top science award". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  55. ^ "Reversal Prize". Methuselah Foundation. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  56. ^ Boursot, P.; Din, W.; Anand, R.; Darviche, D.; Dod, B.; von Deimling, F.; Talwar, G. P.; Bonhomme, F. (1996). "Origin and radiation of the house mouse: Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny". Journal of Evolutionary Biology 9 (4): 391–415.  
  57. ^ a b Cucchi, Thomas; Vigne, Jean-Denis; Auffray, Jean-Christophe (2005). "First occurrence of the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus Schwarz & Schwarz, 1943) in the Western Mediterranean: A zooarchaeological revision of subfossil occurrences". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 84 (3): 429–45.  
  58. ^ Gündüz, İ.; Auffray, J.-C.; Britton-Davidian, J.; Catalan, J.; Ganem, G.; Ramalhinho, M. G.; Mathias, M. L.; Searle, J. B. (2001). "Molecular studies on the colonization of the Madeiran archipelago by house mice". Molecular Ecology 10 (8): 2023–9.  
  59. ^ "The History Of Fancy Mice". American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  60. ^ a b the Rat and Mouse Club of America
  61. ^ a b "Diseases directly transmitted by rodents". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (page last updated: June 7, 2011). 
  62. ^ "Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis" (PDF). Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health. March 2010. 
  63. ^ Verhaegh, Els M.L.; Moudrous, Walid; Buiting, Anton G. M.; van der Eijk, Annemiek A.; Tijssen, Cees C. (2014). "Meningitis na muizenbeet" [Meningitis after a mouse bite]. Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde (in Dutch) 158: A7033.  
  64. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2005). "Interim guidance for minimizing risk for human lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection associated with rodents". MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 54 (30): 747–9.  
  65. ^ Jamieson, Denise J.; Kourtis, Athena P.; Bell, Michael; Rasmussen, Sonja A. (2006). "Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus: An emerging obstetric pathogen?". American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 194 (6): 1532–6.  
  66. ^ Bonthius, Daniel J. (2012). "Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus: An Underrecognized Cause of Neurologic Disease in the Fetus, Child, and Adult". Seminars in Pediatric Neurology 19 (3): 89–95.  
  67. ^ Shrewsbury, J. F. D. (1970). A History of Bubonic Plague in the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. p. 15. 
  68. ^ "A previous study [1943] reported house mice naturally infected with R. typhi in the state of Georgia; however, no PCR-positive mice were detected in our study. Eruptions of mouse populations in the absence of rats have been implicated in several outbreaks of murine typhus; however, these observations were not supported by laboratory data." Eremeeva, Marina E.; Warashina, Wesley R.; Sturgeon, Michele M.; Buchholz, Arlene E.; Olmsted, Gregory K.; Park, Sarah Y.; Effler, Paul V.; Karpathy, Sandor E. (2008). "Rickettsia typhi and R. felis in Rat Fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis), Oahu, Hawaii". Emerg Infect Dis. 14 (10): 1613–1615.  
  69. ^ Brown, K.; Prescott, J. (2008). "Leptospirosis in the family dog: A public health perspective". Canadian Medical Association Journal 178 (4): 399–401.  
  70. ^ Lynch, Susan V.; Wood, Robert A.; Boushey, Homer; Bacharier, Leonard B.; Bloomberg, Gordon R.; Kattan, Meyer; o’Connor, George T.; Sandel, Megan T.; Calatroni, Agustin; Matsui, Elizabeth; Johnson, Christine C.; Lynn, Henry; Visness, Cynthia M.; Jaffee, Katy F.; Gergen, Peter J.; Gold, Diane R.; Wright, Rosalind J.; Fujimura, Kei; Rauch, Marcus; Busse, William W.; Gern, James E. (2014). "Effects of early-life exposure to allergens and bacteria on recurrent wheeze and atopy in urban children". Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 134 (3): 593–601.e12.  
  71. ^ King, Caroline, ed. (1995). The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press.  
  72. ^ Ryan, Peter G.; Hilton, Geoff M.; Cuthbert, Richard J.; Angel, Andrea; Wanless, Ross M. (2007). "Can predation by invasive mice drive seabird extinctions?". Biology Letters 3 (3): 241–4.  
  73. ^ "Mice: a case study". Biotechnology Australia. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  74. ^ The mouse as vizier, sourced to: Emma Brunner-Traut, Tiergeschichten aus dem Pharaonenland, Mainz, Zabern, 2000.
  75. ^ Plotnikova, Anna Arkadievna (Анна Аркадьевна Плотникова) (2004). "Этнолингвистическая география Южной Славии" [Ethnolinguistic Geography of the South Slav Lands] (in Русский). Moscow: Indrik. pp. 64–68.  


Many Southern Slavs had a traditional annual "Mouse Day" celebration. In the eastern Balkans (most of Bulgaria, Macedonia, the Torlak districts of Serbia), the "Mouse Day" (Bulgarian: Миши ден, Мишин ден) was celebrated on October 9 of the Julian calendar (corresponds to October 27 of the Gregorian calendar in the 20th and 21st centuries), the next day after the feast of St Demetrius. In the western Balkans (Bosnia, Croatia), the Mouse Day would usually be celebrated in the spring, during the Maslenitsa week or early in the Lent.[75]

Importance of mice as a house and agricultural pest resulted in a development of a variety of mice-related rituals and stories in world's cultures. The ancient Egyptians had a story about "The mouse as vizier".[74]

In folk culture

In the grain belt of south-eastern Australia, the introduced species Mus domesticus breed so successfully, every three years or so they reach plague proportions, achieving densities of 1000 per hectare and causing massive disruption to communities, and losses to agriculture of A$36 million annually.[73]

Gough Island in the South Atlantic is used by 20 species of seabirds for breeding, including almost all of the world's Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) and Atlantic petrel (Pterodroma incerta). Until house mice arrived on the island in the 19th century with sailors, the birds did not have any mammalian predators. The mice have since grown unusually large and have learned to attack albatross chicks, which can be nearly 1 m tall, but are largely immobile, by working in groups and gnawing on them until they bleed to death.[72]

New Zealand had no land mammals other than the lesser short-tailed bat (Mystacina tuberculata) prior to human occupation, and the house mouse is one of many species that have been introduced. Mice are responsible for a reduction in native bird species since they eat some of the same foods as birds. They are also known to kill lizards and have a large effect on native insects.[71]

Mice have become an invasive species on islands to where they have spread during the period of European exploration and colonisation.

Invasive species

According to recent research on the hygiene hypothesis, children who are exposed at a young age to specific allergens, feces, dander, and bacteria from (among others) cockroaches, mice, and cats are less likely to develop asthma and allergies later in life.[70]

Leptospirosis is carried by a variety of wild and domestic animals including dogs, rats, swine, cattle, mice in general, and can be transmitted by the urine of an infected animal and is contagious as long as the urine is still moist.[69]

Rickettsialpox, caused by the bacterium Rickettsia akari and similar to chickenpox, is spread by mice in general, but is very rare and generally mild and resolves within 2–3 weeks if untreated. No known deaths have resulted from the disease. Murine typhus (also called endemic typhus) is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia typhi, and is transmitted by the fleas that infest rats. While rat fleas are the most common vectors, cat fleas and mouse fleas are less common modes of transmission.[68] Endemic typhus is highly treatable with antibiotics. The US CDC currently does not mention rickettsialpox or murine typhus on its website about diseases directly transmitted by rodents (in general)[61]

House mice are not usually a vector of human plague (bubonic plague) because they have less infestations with fleas than do rats, and because the fleas which house mice normally carry exhibit little tendency to bite humans rather than their natural host.[67]

Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) can be transmitted by mice, but is not a commonly reported infection in humans, though most infections are mild and are often never diagnosed.[62][63][64] Some concern exists that women should not to be infected with LCMV during pregnancy.[65][66]

House mice can sometimes transmit diseases, contaminate food, and damage food packaging. Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives a list with diseases transmitted by rodents,[61] only few of the diseases are transmitted through the house mouse.

Mice and diseases

The first written reference to mice kept as pets occurs in the Erya, the oldest extant Chinese dictionary, from a mention in an 1100 BC version.[59] Human domestication led to numerous strains of "fancy" or hobby mice with a variety of colours and a docile temperament.[60] Domestic varieties of the house mouse are bred as a food source for some carnivorous pet reptiles, birds, arthropods, and fish.[60]

An individually ventilated and sealed cage for laboratory mice

Many studies have been done on mouse phylogenies to reconstruct early human movements. For example, one study suggests the possibility of a previously unsuspected early link between Northern Europe and Madeira on the basis of the origin of Madeiran mice.[58] House mice were thought to be the primary reason for the taming of the domestic cat.

House mice usually live in proximity to humans, in or around houses or fields. Originally native to Asia (probably northern India),[56] they spread to the Mediterranean Basin about 8000 BC, only spreading into the rest of Europe around 1000 BC.[57] This time lag is thought to be because the mice require agrarian human settlements above a certain size.[57] They have since been spread to all parts of the globe by humans.

Mice and humans

House mice usually live less than one year in the wild, due to a high level of predation and exposure to harsh environments. In protected environments, however, they often live two to three years. The Methuselah Mouse Prize is a competition to breed or engineer extremely long-lived laboratory mice. As of 2005, the record holder was a genetically engineered mouse that lived for 1,819 days (4 years, 358 days).[53] Another record holder that was kept in an enriched environment but did not receive any genetic, pharmacological, or dietary treatment lived for 1,551 days (4 years, 90 days).[54][55]

Life expectancy

There is conflict when multiple sets of gametes are present intrauterine in female house mouse that allocates more metabolic resources from the mother. This leads to a decrease in body mass average and variance of progeny. The effect of this on offspring fitness is still indeterminate. [48]

Intrauterine Insemination

Due to polyandry, males can be confused by the identity of new offspring and accidentally kill offspring they have sired. Paternity confusion causes infanticide, reduced fitness, and lower chances of a male passing down his genes to the next generation.[52]

Paternity confusion

Evolutionary consequences

Sperm competition plays a role in postcopulatory sexual selection in house mice. Among male house mice, increased insemination could increase the chances of successful fertilizations. An advantageous phenotype, possessing a genetic basis, among male mice includes large ejaculates that reach the egg faster.[49] The competitive aspect of insemination increases the frequency of polyandrous events and fertilizations. Polyandry has evolved to increase reproductive success.

Increased insemination

Female house mice tend to avoid inbreeding depression by mating with non-related individuals. Inbreeding depression increases genetic incompatibilities, levels of homozygosity, and the chance of deleterious recessive alleles, but reduces biological fitness in a population.[50] By mating with multiple unrelated males, female house mice can increase the genetic variation within the gene pool and reduce reproductive failure resulting from unfavorable combinations of parental genotypes. Both polyandrous behavior and bias towards unrelated mates can increase biological fitness within a population. Polyandry has been shown to increase offspring survival compared to monandry.[51] Polyandry has evolved to avoid inbreeding avoidance in house mice.

Avoidance of inbreeding depression

Evolutionary explanation

Variation in polyandrous behavior also occurs within a population between males and females. Females show bias toward unrelated males rather than related males. Males show various levels of polyandrous behavior as they compete to inseminate female house mice within their lifetimes. Polyandry facilitates sexual selection of mates.[49]

Variation in polyandrous behavior differs across populations. Polyandrous behavior within female mice only occur in 30% of all wild populations. Litters from multiple sires tend to be more genetically diverse than litters of single sires. Multiple paternity is also more common in larger populations than smaller populations.[48]

Polyandrous behavior in male and female house mice is common in many populations. Variation of polyandrous behavior occurs across and within a population between males and females. Polyandrous behavior is a common mating pattern in species of Mus musculus musculus as well as the relative Mus musculus domesticus. [48]


Offspring of multiply mated females have higher allelic diversity (genetic diversity) than those from singly mated females.[48]


Evolutionary consequences that result from polygamy have been studied extensively as well. The polyandrous behavior of female house mice promotes sperm competition, which affects both male and female fitness. The fitness of females increases in polygamous lines due to increased litter size. Male fitness increases in parallel with increased sperm quality that arises from this competition, meaning they evolve faster sperm, more motile sperm, and higher numbers of sperm.[46] Male mating behavior is also affected in response to the practice of polygamous behavior. Compared to monogamous house mice, polygamous house mice are shown to mate for longer periods of time. This behaviour allows for an increase in both the transfer of sperm and paternity success, which in turn increases male fitness.[47]

Other consequences of the polygamous nature of the house mouse are also observed, some being behavioral and some evolutionary. One consequence is the paternal investment, which is shown to be lower in polygamous mice than in mice that practice monogamous behavior. Polygamous male house mice spend less time alone with pups. They are also less likely and slower to retrieve lost pups than males of monogamous mice. In contrast, the maternal investment is similar between house mice and monogamous mice.[45]

Evolutionary and Behavioural Consequences

Even though the behavior of the house mouse is not rigid, it is most commonly polygamous in nature, and generally shows characteristics of mate-defense polygyny in behaviour. This translates to highly territorial males with less agonistic females. The result of such behavior is communal nursing of young within cooperative breeding groups, usually of related females, showing increased reproductive success.[42] Forming these groups of related females provides another advantage, leading to lower numbers of infanticide.[43] The benefit of polyandrous behavior within female house mice has also been studied. Under identical copulation frequency, females who practice polyandrous behavior produce pups with higher survival rates than females who practice monogamous behavior.[44]


The pups are born blind and without fur or ears. The ears are fully developed by the fourth day, fur begins to appear at about six days and the eyes open around 13 days after birth; the pups are weaned at around 21 days. Females reach sexual maturity at about six weeks of age and males at about eight weeks, but both can copulate as early as five weeks. If the infants live in high temperatured area from birth, they will become less-haired.[41]

Following copulation, female mice will normally develop a copulation plug which prevents further copulation. The plug is not necessary for pregnancy initiation, as this will also occur without the plug. The presence or absence of the plug will not affect litter size either.[40] This plug stays in place for some 24 hours. The gestation period is about 19–21 days, and they give birth to a litter of 3–14 young (average six to eight). One female can have 5 to 10 litters per year, so the mouse population can increase very quickly. Breeding occurs throughout the year. (However, animals living in the wild do not reproduce in the colder months, even though they do not hibernate.)

Male house mice court females by emitting characteristic ultrasonic calls in the 30 kHz–110 kHz range. The calls are most frequent during courtship when the male is sniffing and following the female; however, the calls continue after mating has begun, at which time the calls are coincident with mounting behaviour. Males can be induced to emit these calls by female pheromones. The vocalizations appear to differ between individuals and have been compared to bird songs because of their complexity.[39] While females have the capability to produce ultrasonic calls, they typically do not do so during mating behaviour.

Female house mice have an estrous cycle about four to six days long, with estrus itself lasting less than a day. If several females are held together under crowded conditions, they will often not have an estrus at all. If they are then exposed to male urine, they will come into estrus after 72 hours.

A two-week-old mouse, just about to open its eyes
A two-day-old mouse

Life cycle and reproduction

Mice can sense surfaces and air movements with their whiskers which are also used during thigmotaxis. If mice are blind from birth, super-normal growth of the vibrissae occurs presumably as a compensatory response,[37] or if the vibrissae are absent, the use of vision is intensified.[38]


Odours from adult males or from pregnant or lactating females can speed up or retard sexual maturation in juvenile females and synchronise reproductive cycles in mature females (i.e. the Whitten effect). Odours of unfamiliar male mice may terminate pregnancies, i.e. the Bruce effect.

House mice also rely on alkanes, alcohols, etc., are detectable in the urine. Among them, five compounds are specific to males, namely 3-cyclohexene-1-methanol, aminotriazole (3-amino-s-triazole), 4-ethyl phenol, 3-ethyl-2,7-dimethyl octane and 1-iodoundecane.[36]


The visual apparatus of mice is basically similar to that of humans but differs in that they are dichromats and have only two types of cone cells whereas humans are trichromats and have three. This means that mice do not perceive some of the colors in the human visual spectrum.[30] However, the ventral area of the mouse retina has a much greater density of ultraviolet-sensitive cones than other areas of the retina, although the biological significance of this structure is unknown.[31][32][33] In 2007, mice genetically engineered by scientists at the University of California to produce the third type of cone were shown to be able to distinguish a range of colors similar to that perceived by tetrachromats.[30]


Senses and communication

Both commensal and noncommensal house mouse males aggressively defend their territory and act to exclude all intruders. Males mark their territory by scent marking with urine. In marked territories, intruders showed significantly lower aggression than the territory residents.[25] House mice show a male-biased dispersal; males generally leave their birth sites and migrate to form new territories whereas females generally stay and are opportunistic breeders rather than seasonal.[29]

In open areas such as shrubs and fields, the house mouse population is known as noncommensal. These populations are often limited by water or food supply and have large territories.[25] Female-female aggression in the noncommensal house mouse populations is much higher, reaching a level generally attributed to free-ranging species. Male aggression is also higher in noncommensal populations. In commensal populations, males come into contact with other males quite frequently due to high population densities and aggression must be mediated or the risk of injury becomes too great.[24]

House mice have two forms of social behaviour, the expression of which depends on the environmental context. House mice in buildings and other urbanized areas with close proximity to humans are known as commensal.[24] Commensal mice populations often have an excessive food source resulting in high population densities and small home ranges. This causes a switch from territorial behaviour to a hierarchy of individuals.[24][26] When populations have an excess of food, there is less female-female aggression, which usually occurs to gain access to food or to prevent infanticide.[24] Male-male aggression occurs in commensal populations, mainly to defend female mates and protect a small territory.[24][25] The high level of male-male aggression, with a low female-female aggression level is common in polygamous populations.[27] The social unit of commensal house mouse populations generally consists of one male and two or more females, usually related.[27][28] These groups breed cooperatively, with the females communally nursing. This cooperative breeding and rearing by related females helps increase reproductive success. When no related females are present, breeding groups can form from non-related females.[28]

The social behaviour of the house mouse is not rigidly fixed into species-specific patterns but is instead adaptable to the environmental conditions, such as the availability of food and space.[24][25] This adaptability allows house mice to inhabit diverse areas ranging from sandy dunes to apartment buildings.[24]

Social behaviour

Mice are generally afraid of rats which often kill and eat them, a behavior known as muricide. Despite this, free-living populations of rats and mice do exist together in forest areas in New Zealand, North America, and elsewhere. House mice are generally poor competitors and in most areas cannot survive away from human settlements in areas where other small mammals, such as wood mice, are present.[22] However, in some areas (such as Australia), mice are able to coexist with other small rodent species.[23]

House mice primarily feed on plant matter, but are omnivorous. They eat their own faeces to acquire nutrients produced by bacteria in their intestines.[20] House mice, like most other rodents, do not vomit.[21]

Mice are mostly crepuscular or nocturnal; they are averse to bright lights. The average sleep time of a captive house mouse is reported to be 12.5 hours per day. They live in a wide variety of hidden places near food sources, and construct nests from various soft materials. Mice are territorial, and one dominant male usually lives together with several females and young. Dominant males respect each other's territories and normally enter another's territory only if it is vacant. If two or more males are housed together in a cage, they often become aggressive unless they have been raised together from birth.

House mice usually run, walk, or stand on all fours, but when eating, fighting, or orienting themselves, they rear up on their hind legs with additional support from the tail - a behaviour known as "tripoding". Mice are good jumpers, climbers, and swimmers, and are generally considered to be thigmotactic, i.e. usually attempts to maintain contact with vertical surfaces.



Many more names have been given to house mice, but are now regarded as synonyms of other subspecies. Some populations are hybrids of different subspecies, including the Japanese house mouse (M. m. molossinus).[18]

Two additional subspecies have been recognized more recently:[18]

The three widely accepted subspecies are increasingly treated as distinct species:[17][18]

Mice are mammals of the Glires clade, which means they are amongst the closest relatives of humans other than lagomorphs, treeshrews, flying lemurs and other primates.


Rodentia (rodents)

Lagomorpha (rabbits, hares, pikas)


Scandentia (treeshrews)


Dermoptera (flying lemurs)

Primates (†Plesiadapiformes, Strepsirrhini, Haplorrhini)

Taxonomy and subspecies


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