Tuesday, 20 March 2012
The Viking Journey of mice and men
New research carried out at the University of York and published in BMC Evolutionary Biology has used evolutionary techniques on modern day and ancestral mouse mitochondrial DNA to show that the timeline of mouse colonisation matches that of Viking invasion.
House mice (Mus musculus) happily live wherever there are humans. When populations of humans migrate the mice often travel with them.Human settlement history over the last 1000 years is reflected in the genetic sequence of mouse mitochondrial DNA
During the Viking age (late 8th to mid 10th century) Vikings from Norway established colonies across Scotland, the Scottish islands, Ireland, and Isle of Man. They also explored the north Atlantic, settling in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Newfoundland and Greenland. While they intentionally took with them domestic animals such as horses, sheep, goats and chickens they also inadvertently carried pest species, including mice.
A multinational team of researchers from the UK, USA, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden used techniques designed to characterize genetic similarity, and hence the relatedness of one population, or one individual, with another, to determine a mouse colonisation timeline.