How the mouse conquered the house

Communal building from Klimonas, Cyprus, dating from the 9th millennium BC, wher

Communal building from Klimonas, Cyprus, dating from the 9th millennium BC, where the first invasive house mouse was found in a Mediterranean island environment. Pictures taken during excavations led by Jean-Denis Vigne, from the laboratory « Archéozoologie, archéobotanique : sociétés, pratiques et environnements » (CNRS/Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle) and François Briois, from the laboratory « Travaux de recherches archéologiques sur les cultures, les espaces et les sociétés » (CNRS/Université Toulouse - Jean Jaurès/Ministère de la Culture). © Jean-Denis Vigne.

Like humans, the house mouse, or Mus musculus sp., is widespread throughout the world, making it the most invasive rodent species. An international study involving eight countries 1 and led by Thomas Cucchi of the ’Archaeozoology, Archaeobotany: Societies, Practices and Environments’ laboratory (CNRS/ Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle ) reveals how human activities have favoured the emergence and spread of this animal over the last 20,000 years, from the Middle East to Europe 4,000 years ago. To reconstruct the history of the biological invasion of the house mouse, the researchers analysed more than 800 remains from 43 archaeological sites. The study, published in Scientific Reports on 19 May 2020, also reveals that the diffusion dates into Europe coincide with the first appearance of domestic cats on the continent, suggesting that the introduction of this predator may have been motivated by the need to control mouse populations in order to protect grain and food stocks.


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