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Fossil range: Late Miocene - Recent
House mouse, Mus musculus
House mouse, Mus musculus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Superfamily: Muroidea
Family: Muridae
Subfamily: Murinae
Genus: Mus
Linnaeus, 1758

Feral mouse

A mouse (plural mice) is a rodent that belongs to one of numerous species of small mammals. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse (Mus musculus). It is found in nearly all countries and, as the laboratory mouse, serves as an important model organism in biology; it is also a popular pet. The American white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) also sometimes live in houses. These species of mice live commensally with humans.

Although they may live up to two years in the lab, the average mouse in the wild lives only about 3 months, primarily due to heavy predation. Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of insects have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, due to its incredible adaptability to almost any environment, and its ability to live commensally with humans, the mouse is regarded to be the third most successful mammalian species living on Earth today, after humans and the rat.

Mice can be harmful pests, damaging and eating crops and spreading diseases through their parasites and feces. In the Western United States, breathing dust that has come in contact with mouse feces has been linked to the deadly hantavirus. The original motivation for the domestication of cats is thought to have been for their predation of mice and their relatives, the rats.

Body and behavior

Mice are small rodents, resembling diminutive rats. Usually they have pointed snouts and small ears. The body is typically elongated with slender, usually hairless tails, but different types of mice show large variations. Body dimensions vary considerably by species, though some approximate values are available: total length 28-130 mm, mass 2.5 to >34g[1]

Mice generally live on an herbivore diet, but are actually omnivores; they will eat meat, the dead bodies of other mice, and have been observed to self-cannibalise their tails during starvation. Grasshopper mice are an exception to the rule, being the only fully carnivorous mice. Mice eat grains, fruits, and seeds for a regular diet, which is the main reason they damage crops. They are also known to eat their own feces. Mice are generally thought to enjoy cheese and people sometimes use it as mousetrap bait, but mice actually do not like cheese due to its fatty texture. Instead, they like food that contains high sugar, like chocolate. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Mice are social animals. They prefer to live in groups. Male rivalry can become harmful for the animals, especially when a group is confined to a small space. The natural habitats of the mouse are very diverse. Mice can be found in forests, savannahs, grasslands and rocky habitats.[1] In Africa they tend to particularly like forest edge, derived savannah, and (as elsewhere) agricultural areas. Mice build nests for protection and warmth, but species differ in their preferences: M. minutoides nests in shallow burrows; M. caroli and M. cervicolor burrow; and M. shortridgei and M. pahari nest aboveground. Most species will construct nests of grass, fibers, and shredded material.[1] Mice do hibernate.

The mouse has dichromatic vision, lacking a photopigment that can detect red light.[2] Diseases spread by mice and rats

It is important to get rid of mice quickly because they can spread serious disease to people.

Some of the diseases they carry or cause include:

  • Rickettsial pox a disease similar to chicken pox and is spread to people by mites that are usually found on mice.
  • Rat bite fever is spread to people when they are bitten by an infected mouse, rat or rodent.
  • Food poisoning (namely salmonellosis) is spread to people when food, food preparation surfaces or dishes are contaminated by saliva, urine or feces from a mouse.
  • Mice can spread parasites to people such as trichinosis and tapeworms.
  • Hantavirus is a respiratory disease that is carried by small rodents, especially deer mice. It is spread to people when they breathe in dust that contains the rodents infected saliva, urine or feces. Although uncommon, people can also get hantavirus if they are bitten by an infected mouse.
  • Plague is spread to people when they come in contact with fleas from infected rodents or when people are bitten by infected rodents. However, today plague is usually spread to people by rodents like prairie dogs and squirrels.

Effects of caloric restriction

Studies in female mice have shown that estrogen receptor-alpha declines in the pre-optic hypothalamus as they grow old. The female mice that were given a calorically restricted diet during the majority of their lives, maintained higher levels of ERα in the pre-optic hypothalamus than their non-calorically restricted counterparts.[3] Studies in female mice have shown that both Supraoptic nucleus (SON) and Paraventricular nucleus (PVN) lose about one-third of IGF-1R immunoreactive cells with normal aging. Also, Old caloricly restricted (CR) mice lost higher numbers of IGF-1R non-immunoreactive cells while maintaining similar counts of IGF-1R immunoreactive cells in comparison to Old-Al mice. Consequently, Old-CR mice show a higher percentage of IGF-1R immunoreactive cells reflecting increased hypothalamic sensitivity to IGF-1 in comparison to normally aging mice. [4] [5]

Taxonomy of the genus Mus

The term "mouse" in common usage is roughly equivalent to the taxonomic term Mus, while house mouse is equivalent to Mus musculus. In common language the term "mouse" often refers incorrectly to Mus musculus. However, there are 38 species of mice (in the genus Mus); see table below.

Genus Mus
Subgenus Pyromys Subgenus Coelomys Subgenus Mus Subgenus Nannomys
  • Mus platythrix
  • Mus saxicola
  • Mus philipsi
  • Mus shortridgei
  • Mus fernandoni
  • Mus mayori
  • Mus pahari
  • Mus crociduroides
  • Mus vulcani
  • Mus famulus
  • Mus caroli
  • Mus cervicolor
  • Mus cookii
  • Mus cypriacus
  • Mus booduga
  • Mus terricolor
  • Mus musculus
  • Mus spretus
  • Mus macedonicus
  • Mus spicelegus
  • Mus fragilicauda
  • Mus callewaerti
  • Mus setulosus
  • Mus triton
  • Mus bufo
  • Mus tenellus
  • Mus haussa
  • Mus mattheyi
  • Mus indutus
  • Mus setzeri
  • Mus musculoides
  • Mus minutoides
  • Mus orangiae
  • Mus mahomet
  • Mus sorella
  • Mus kasaicus
  • Mus neavei
  • Mus oubanguii
  • Mus goundae
  • Mus baoulei

Laboratory mice

Mice are the most commonly utilized animal research model with hundreds of established inbred, outbred, and transgenic strains. In the United States, they are not covered under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) (administered by the USDA, APHIS) as an animal. However, the Public Health Service Act (PHS) as administered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) does cover their humane treatment.

Mice are common experimental animals in biology and psychology primarily because they are mammals, and thus share a high degree of homology with humans. The mouse genome has been sequenced, and virtually all mouse genes have human homologs. They can also be manipulated in ways that would be considered unethical to do with humans. Mice are a primary mammalian model organism, as are rats.

There are many additional benefits of mice in laboratory research. Mice are small, inexpensive, easily maintained, and can reproduce quickly. Several generations of mice can be observed in a relatively short period of time. Mice are generally very docile if raised from birth and given sufficient human contact. However, certain strains have been known to be quite temperamental.


Mouse-like species are among the oldest mammals. It has been proposed that higher mammals evolved from rodent-like species many million years ago.

Mice have been known to humans since antiquity. The Romans differentiated poorly between mice and rats, calling rats Mus Maximus (big mouse) and referring to mice as Mus Minimus (little mouse). In Spanish similar term are in use: ratón for mouse and rata for rat.[1]

Discoloration in mice was supposedly first noticed in China by 1100 BC, where a white mouse was discovered. However, there is sufficient evidence to believe that white mice were first noticed before that, in the times of the Greeks and Ancient Rome.

The word "mouse" and the word muscle are related. Muscle stems from musculus meaning small mouse - possibly because of a similarity in shape.[2][3] The word "mouse" is a cognate of Sanskrit mush meaning 'to steal,' which is also cognate with mys in Old Greek and mus in Latin.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1936 pp. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9
  2. Jacobs GH, Williams GA, Fenwick JA. Influence of cone pigment co-expression on spectral sensitivity and color vision in the mouse. Vision Res. 2004; 44(14):1615-22
  3. Yaghmaie F, Saeed O, Garan SA, Freitag W, Timiras PS, Sternberg H., 2005. "Caloric restriction reduces cell phone loss and maintains estrogen receptor-alpha immunoreactivity in the pre-optic hypothalamus of female B6D2F1 mice". Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Jun; Vol. 26(3):197-203. PMID 15990721
  4. Saeed O,Yaghmaie F,Garan SA,Gouw AM,Voelker MA,Sternberg H, Timiras PS. (2007). Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor immunoreactive cells are selectively maintained in the paraventricular hypothalamus of calorically restricted mice. Int J Dev Neurosci 25 (1): 23-8.
  5. Yaghmaie F, Saeed O, Garan SA, Voelker MA, Gouw AM, Freitag W, Sternberg H, Timiras PS (2006). Age-dependent loss of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor immunoreactive cells in the supraoptic hypothalamus is reduced in calorically restricted mice. Int J Dev Neurosci 24 (7): 431-6.

See also

External links

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