Evolution of an invasive rodent on an archipelago as revealed by molar shape analysis: the house mouse in the Canary Islands

Jacques Michaux, Thomas Cucchi, Sabrina Renaud, Francisco Garcia-Talavera, Rainer Hutterer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Aim The aim of this paper is to identify the patterns in the morphological differentiation in Canary Island mice, based on fossil and modern samples. In order to achieve this, the mouse species present on the archipelago were first compared with a set of continental mice. The differences between the continental and Canary Island samples, and among the Canary Island samples, provide insights into the processes of colonization and the subsequent insular evolution.

Location Canary archipelago.

Methods An outline analysis based on Fourier transformation was used to quantify shape differences between lower molars. Together with the fossil and modern Canary Island samples, a reference set of genotyped continental populations of the commensal Mus musculus and the wild Mus spretus was used for comparison.

Results The morphometric analysis showed that all the mouse specimens from the Canary Islands and Cape Verde belonged to Mus musculus domesticus. Lower molars of extant mice from La Gomera, El Hierro, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and to a lesser degree from Lanzarote, were similar to those of genotyped M. m. domesticus from the continent, while teeth of extant mice from Fuerteventura were more divergent. Fossil mice from Fuerteventura were very similar to the extant representatives on this island, and similar to the fossil mice on the nearby islands of Lobos and La Graciosa.

Main conclusions The mouse present on the Canary archipelago has been identified as the house mouse M. m. domesticus. Based on the shape of the lower molar, the Canary Island mice are divergent from the continental ones, but the degree of divergence varies with the geography of the archipelago. Overall, populations from eastern islands are more divergent from the continental mice than populations from western ones. Fossil populations indicate that this situation was established several centuries ago. Two main factors may have contributed to this pattern: the appearance of different types of environment on the islands since the successful settlement of the mouse, and/or the number of subsequent introductions of continental individuals via shipping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1412-1425
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number8
Early online date2 May 2007
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • anthropization
  • colonization
  • Fourier transform
  • geometric morphometry
  • human migration
  • insular syndrome
  • island biogeography
  • Late Holocene
  • Mus musculus domesticus
  • zooarchaeology
  • mandible shape
  • wood mice
  • reconstruction
  • Fuerteventura
  • mammalia
  • extinct


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