How the deer mouse evolved its burrow
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Animal Behaviour, Volume 77, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 603-609
The evolution of burrowing behaviour in deer mice (genus Peromyscus)
Weber and Hoekstra
Abstract wrote:The evolutionary history of most behaviours remains unknown. Here, we assay burrowing behaviour of seven species of deer mice in standardized environments to determine how burrowing evolved in this genus (Peromyscus).
We found that several, but not all, species burrow even after many generations of captive breeding. Specifically, there were significant and repeatable differences in both the frequency of burrowing and burrow shape between species. Moreover, these observed species-specific behaviours resemble those reported in wild mice.
These results suggest that there is probably a strong genetic component to burrowing in deer mice.
We also generated a phylogeny for these seven species using characters from four mtDNA and two autosomal loci. Mapping burrowing behaviour onto this phylogeny suggests a sequence for how complex burrowing evolves: from small, simple burrows to long, multitunnel burrows with defined entrance and escape tunnels. In particular, the most ‘complex’ burrows of P. polionotus appear to be derived.
These behavioural data, when examined in a phylogenetic context, show that even closely related species differ in their burrowing behaviours and that the most complex burrows probably evolved by the gradual accumulation of genetic change over time.
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Tags: behaviour mice