House mouse

Mus musculus


Mus musculus Linnaeus, 1758, Uppsala, Sweden. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Mouse; French: Souris domestique; German: Hausmaus; Spanish: Ratón común.


Body length 5.1-9 in (13-20 cm); tail 2.3-3.9 in (6-10 cm); weight 0.6-0.8 oz (18-23 g). A typical, stereotypical mouse, with grayish brown hair on its top, relatively big ears, and a dusky, scaly, nearly hairless tail; the fur on its bottom is only slightly lighter than the fur on its top, and it has ungrooved incisors.


Mice spread to Europe from Asia and appeared in the sixteenth century in the New World on the ships of explorers. In the seventeenth century, they appeared in northern North America and have proliferated since due to high reproductive capacity. House mouse subspecies can be found across the world.


Underground burrows, which some subspecies equip with storage rooms. Each mouse will make its own nest, but will share burrows with other individuals in the colony. Many house mice are co-habitants with humans, living beneath large appliances or inside of walls in human homes. Some house mice live temporarily in grain fields, which they migrate into, breed, feed, and leave when the field is plowed; in 1926-1927, house mice nearly took over the fields of California's Central Valley, living in them in a density of 202,000 mice per 2.5 acres (1 ha). Sometimes, they eat animal and plant pests in the fields, but they inevitably wind up in barns and silos where they tend to contaminate food. In general, the house mouse does not stray far from cover, with the best habitat offering copious amounts of food, water, and places to hide. Their home ranges vary, from 120 ft (36.5 m) for some indoor mice to more than 2 mi (3.2 km) for certain ones outside.


A social species, it lives in groups with others of its kind, and aggressive males have hierarchical ranks and tend to dominate colonies. Each group lives in a territory bound by scent markers, and animals within the colony have their own nests. They will groom each other and display aggressive and submissive postures common in the species.


Eat up to 10% of their body weight daily, and feed up to 20 times each day. They consume grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, insects, and have been known to eat glue, paste, and even soap. If they eat moist food or a seed diet of 12% protein, they can live without water. The house mouse has been known to feed on caterpillars, flightless moths, and earthworms.

H Mus musculus H Micromys minutus H Pelomys fallax


Polygynous. They reproduce copiously, and a biological contraceptive keeps their populations in check: females' ovaries become inoperative and the animals become infertile. They breed throughout the year, with females giving birth to litters of 3-12 offspring about 5-10 times annually. Gestation is about three weeks. When the young arrive, they are hairless and their eyes are closed. Young are weaned by 21 days, they begin to reproduce in their second month of life, and they can live, depending on predation, to be six years old. Most wild mice live about a year, while those in captivity generally live about two years.


Not threatened.


Over the centuries, they have spread disease and have been used by scientists to help cure disease. The albino lab mouse, the icon of scientific lab research, was bred from the house mouse and has been used in everything from cancer studies to stem cell research. At one point, cooked mouse was a folk remedy for flu-like symptoms, and house mice were considered a helper for conditions like baldness and constipation. They also carry a variety of germs and viruses that are dangerous to humans, including tularemia, bubonic plague, spotted fever, typhus, and Salmonella. ♦

Rattus rattus Rattus norvegicus
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