Evolution of Lab Rats

When you change the environment of a species, you’ve changed the selection pressure of that species and evolution is going to do its thing.  That’s the issue discussed in a post by Olivia Judson at the NY Times Opinionator blog:

In short, the pressures of daily life have been transformed — and
traits that were an advantage Out There may no longer be so Inside.
Similarly, traits that would have killed you in the wild may help you
get along inside a bottle.

Mice show a host of changes, too. Compared to their wild
relations, laboratory mice are typically bigger, more docile, reach
sexual maturity earlier and die younger. Some of these changes can
appear quickly: one study found that the ability to reproduce later in
life declined within 10 generations of the mice being bred in the

Intriguingly, laboratory mice also have longer telomeres than wild
mice. (Telomeres are the segments of DNA at the ends of chromosomes;
they are thought to play a role in aging and cancer.) Since no one is
deliberately breeding mice for extra-long telomeres, this must arise as
some consequence of laboratory life. But what?


5 responses to “Evolution of Lab Rats

  1. cool mouse photo 😉

  2. A colleague of mine who is far to the right in terms of being conservative, took mice and had them listen to heavy rock music for two weeks during the night. She wanted to show the class how a change in their environment via “bad” music altered their state. Can you believe that? I do not know the conclusion of the activity, though. But, I have issue with the jusry selection aspect of rock music.

    Oh, she teaches in the Religion department. A very conservative one.

  3. Ok, THAT is hilarious! I wonder if she had them listen to Luther Vandross if the mice would turn into “fornicators”. Mice are heathens. 🙂

  4. Agree. I will find out and let you know.

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