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Invasive house mice facing a changing environment on the Sub-Antarctic Guillou Island (Kerguelen Archipelago)


Hardouin,  E. A.
Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Renaud, S., Hardouin, E. A., Pisanu, B., & Chapuis, J.-L. (2013). Invasive house mice facing a changing environment on the Sub-Antarctic Guillou Island (Kerguelen Archipelago). Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26(3), 612-624. doi:10.1111/jeb.12079.

Adaptation to new environments is a key feature in evolution promoting divergence in morphological structures under selection. The house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) introduced on the Sub-Antarctic Guillou Island (Kerguelen Archipelago) had and still has to face environmental conditions that likely shaped the pattern and pace of its insular evolution. Since mouse arrival on the island, probably not more than two centuries ago, ecological conditions dramatically differed from those available to their Western European commensal source populations. In addition, over the last two decades, the plant and animal communities of Guillou Island were considerably modified by the eradication of rabbits, the effects of climate change and the spread of invasive species detrimental to native communities. Under such a changing habitat, the mouse response was investigated using a morphometric quantification of mandible and molar tooth, two morphological structures related to food processing. A marked differentiation of the insular mice compared with their relatives from Western Europe was documented for both mandibles and molar shapes. Moreover, these shapes changed through the 16 years of the record, in agreement with expectations of drift for the molar, but more than expected by chance for the mandible. These results suggest that mice responded to the recent changes in food resources, possibly with a part of plastic variation for the mandible prone to bone remodelling. This pattern exemplifies the intricate interplay of evolution, ecology and plasticity that is a probable key of the success of such an invasive rodent facing pronounced shifts in food resources exploitation under a changing environment.