House mouse

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House mouse
House mouse (mus musculus)

House mouse ( mus musculus )

Superfamily : Mice-like (Muroidea)
Family : Long-tailed mice (Muridae)
Subfamily : Old World Mice (Murinae)
Tribe : Murini
Genre : Mice ( Mus )
Type : House mouse
Scientific name
Mus musculus
Linnaeus , 1758

The house mouse ( Mus musculus ) is a small species of long-tailed mice (Muridae) belonging to the order of rodents and belongs to the old world mice (Murinae) . It occurs in almost all countries and often lives near people as a cultural follower .

Strains of the house mouse are as fancy mice designated and decades of animal experiments used as well as domestic kept and feed animals.

External features

Notch on the back of the upper incisors

House mice living in the wild reach a head-trunk length of 7 to 11 centimeters, a tail length of 7 to 10 centimeters and a weight of around 20 to 25 grams. The white mice kept in laboratories and the colored mice available in pet shops can become considerably heavier, 45 to 60 grams are not uncommon. The body is mouse-gray to brown-gray on the upper side, the underside is somewhat lighter. The tail is provided with clearly visible scale rings and sparsely hairy.

Adult house mice have longer tails than voles . The tail of a vole is shorter than half of its body (from nose to the base of its tail), the tail of a house mouse is longer than half of its body. The incisor teeth of the upper jaw are slightly notched.

There is a similarity to the wood mouse , which is also often in buildings. In wood mice, however, the light underside is more clearly demarcated from the darker fur on the upper side than in house mice. In contrast to the house mouse, the wood mouse has no notch on the back of the upper incisors.

Karyotype and genome

In the cell nucleus , the genes of the house mouse are organized into 20 chromosomes twice, 19 autosomes twice plus two sex chromosomes . The full genome of a laboratory mouse was first sequenced in 2002 ; like the human, it consists of about three billion base pairs . The number of genes is estimated at 24,000.


Spread of the house mouse

Several subspecies of the house mouse developed around 500,000 years ago in what is now India and Iran . As cultural followers, these spread with the - mostly involuntary - help of humans all over the world. However, its spread is so long ago that house mice in Europe and East Asia as Archäozoon apply.

The distribution of the subspecies can be reconstructed on the basis of bone finds. The eastern subspecies ( Mus musculus musculus ) first spread to Northern Asia and Eastern Europe and adapted to the continental climate . She came to Central and Western Europe via Central Asia, probably with early farmers; it reached Belgium around 4000 BC The western house mouse ( Mus musculus domesticus ) adapted to the maritime climate and reached the Mediterranean , Africa , Western Europe and from there with the first European seafarers and the like with Phoenician merchant ships . a. to America , Australia , Taiwan and even to the remote Faroe Islands . Around 10,000 BC This subspecies is proven in Palestine , 4000 BC. In Greece , 1000 BC. In Spain and around the turn of the times, she came to the British Isles by boat . More recently it has expanded its range in Central Europe from the west to the Baltic Sea. The third subspecies, the Asian house mouse ( Mus musculus castaneus ), spread from India to East Asia and produced hybrid populations (called Japanese house mouse, Mus musculus molossinus ) from Mus musculus castaneus x Mus musculus musculus due to matings .

In Germany, the eastern and western subspecies have been occurring separately for about 5000 years. However, the distribution areas of both subspecies overlap in a contact zone around 40 kilometers wide, along the climatic divide between the Atlantic and continental climates, and create hybrid populations there. The hybrids, however, suffer from a weak immune system, they are more frequently attacked by parasites and give birth to fewer offspring than comparable individuals of the two subspecies. This hybrid zone stretches across Jutland and from the Bay of Lübeck to the south, extends around the eastern edge of the Alps towards the Mediterranean, follows the mountain ridge along today's Croatian - Bosnian border and reaches the Black Sea approximately at the level of Bucharest .

When the house mouse does not live close to humans, it mainly inhabits steppes , desert areas and cultivated land . There she digs passages and builds nests in which to store her supplies. The white mice kept in laboratories are all descended from the western subspecies Mus musculus domesticus .


Mouse ingesting food

The house mouse is usually nocturnal when close to people, stores supplies and falls into a state of paralysis when there is frost and food shortages . Free-living mice walk on odor-marked trails ("smear marks ").

In addition to brown rats, house mice are the best-studied mammals with regard to their social behavior (especially their feeding behavior ) and their genetics . They communicate through touch, smell - see the article olfactory communication in house mice - and through ultrasound sounds. Especially in nestlings you can hear the faint cracking of the vocal folds when they produce ultrasonic sounds that are inaudible to humans. This communication also takes place in courtship , with the males "singing" individual, recurring melody themes , similar to songbirds.


House mice are so-called omnivores : Although they mainly consume plant-based food (for example fallen seeds from grass , nuts and roots), they also use insects that have been captured alive for their diet.

Reproduction and young animals

Litter of a house mouse in a nest made of cleaning rags and a plastic bag

With adequate food supply, the house mouse is able to reproduce all year round and gives birth up to eight times a year with an average of three to eight young. When there is social stress such as a lack of food and limited space, egg maturation and heat are delayed .

The young are naked, blind, deaf, unpigmented and weigh less than a gram at birth . The tightly closed eyes are dark in wild mice and colorless in white mice. Around the 10th day of life, the nestlings are covered with an even fluff of short hair, and on the 15th or 16th day after birth they open their eyes. Up to the age of about 21 days, they are with milk suckled, then they can from the mother sold are. By the age of three weeks they have reached a body weight of around six grams and are sexually mature at six weeks. They are considered ripe for breeding from the eighth week. The wearing time is about three weeks.

Life expectancy

The life expectancy of wild-caught house mice is two to three years in animal husbandry, individual animals can get significantly older. Due to competition within the species and pressure from the enemy , the life expectancy of house mice in the wild is considerably lower.

Natural enemies

Among the natural enemies of the house mouse in Europe are in the house and in its vicinity, especially cats , Norway rats and stone marten , in barns, the barn owls . In the wild, their enemies are birds of prey , weasels , martens , red foxes , snakes and wild cats .

House mice and humans

House mice as pets and laboratory animals

The domesticated form of the house mouse ( color mouse ) is kept as a pet and food animal and is one of the most important model organisms in biomedical research. Domesticated house mice are no longer able to survive in the wild. The keeping of wild-caught house mice in cages is usually difficult, as the animals tend to behave stereotypically up to self-harm and infanticide due to insufficient exercise . The hand-rearing of young house mice and other wild species of mice fail in general.

Harmful effect

Nut harvest gnawed by mice

As a very adaptable animal, the free-living house mouse is generally considered a food pest .

House mice, along with other small rodents, are also reservoir hosts for various types of Borrelia ( bacteria ), which are then supported by vectors such as e.g. B. ticks already occurring in front gardens can be transmitted to animals and humans.


See also: mousetrap and rodenticide

For centuries, domestic cats were kept to control mice. Today the most widespread fight against mice is probably the setting up of traps, in addition to poisoning with pickled grain, which leads to death. In the past, arsenic compounds , barium carbonate , strychnine , white phosphorus and thallium sulfate were used to control mice . These substances had the disadvantage that they could also harm humans and other vertebrates. Even the currently permitted zinc phosphide is not harmless in this regard. The least concern for the environment and for other living beings are anticoagulants that counteract vitamin K1 and that also occur in nature. In rodents, after ingestion for several days, they cause fatal internal bleeding. Only ingesting larger amounts is dangerous for humans. However, the laying out of poison often leads to poisoning of pets such as dogs and cats when they eat poison bait or poisoned mice or rats.

Mousetraps can be divided into live traps, for example box or basket traps made of wooden boards and wire, and deadly traps, for example snap traps with a spring-loaded lever.


Recognized subspecies of the house mouse are:

In addition, u. a. named the following subspecies:

  • Mus musculus molossinus (Japanese house mouse), which based on genetic analyzes as a hybrid between Mus musculus musculus and Mus musculus castaneus described
  • Mus musculus bactrianus (Southwest Asian house mouse), the genetic demarcation of which from Mus musculus castaneus is unclear
  • Mus musculus manchu (Manchurian house mouse) and Mus musculus wagneri (Wagner house mouse), the differentiation of which from other subspecies is unclear

Furthermore, in 1949 the existence of a further subspecies on Heligoland was postulated, called Helgoland house mouse ( Mus musculus helgolandicus ). In fact, according to the Max Planck Society, the Heligoland house mice "almost never mix" with newly introduced conspecifics.


Web links

Commons : House mouse  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Mouse as a theme  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hausmaus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Max Planck Society: Model organism mouse. On: , as of February 20, 2018
  2. Islam Gündüz et al. : Mitochondrial DNA and chromosomal studies of wild mice (Mus) from Turkey and Iran. In: Heredity. Volume 84, 20000, pp. 458-467, doi: 10.1046 / j.1365-2540.2000.00694.x
  3. ^ Waterston RH, Lindblad-Toh K, Birney E, et al. : Initial sequencing and comparative analysis of the mouse genome . In: Nature . 420, No. 6915, December 2002, pp. 520-62. doi : 10.1038 / nature01262 . PMID 12466850 .
    Pierre L. Roubertoux et al. : From DNA to mind. In: EMBO Reports. July 2007, Volume 8 (S1): S7-S11, doi: 10.1038 / sj.embor.7400991
  4. MapViewer entry .
  5. a b c d e f Cornelia Stolze: A mouse bites through. In: MaxPlanckForschung No. 4, 2017, pp. 56–63, full text (PDF)
  6. K. Zimmermann: On the knowledge of Mus musculus L. In: Journal of mammalian studies . Volume 10, 1935, pp. 155-159.
  7. K. Zimmermann: On the knowledge of the Central European house mice. In: Zoological Yearbook, Department of Systematics, Ecology and Geography of Animals. Volume 78, 1950, pp. 301-322.
  8. Klaus Unterholzner, Renate Willenig and Kurt Bauer: Contributions to the knowledge of the ear mouse Mus spicilegus Petenyi, 1882. Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 2000, Biosystematics and Ecology Series No. 17, p. 13, ISBN 3-7001-2940-8 , Full text
  9. Timothy E. Holy and Zhongsheng Guo: Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice. In: PLoS Biol. 3 (12): e386, doi: 10.1371 / journal.pbio.0030386
  10. Peter Mühlbauer: A ban for which nobody wants to be responsible. On the ban on the agricultural mouse poison chlorophacinone. In: Telepolis . July 10, 2008.
  11. House mouse control (no longer available), July 21, 2017 [1] ;
  12. Hassan Rajabi-Maham et al. : The south-eastern house mouse Mus musculus castaneus (Rodentia: Muridae) is a polytypic subspecies. In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Volume 107, No. 2, 2012, pp. 295-306, doi: 10.1111 / j.1095-8312.2012.01957.x
  13. H. Yonekawa et al. : Hybrid origin of Japanese mice "Mus musculus molossinus": evidence from restriction analysis of mitochondrial DNA. In: Molecular Biology and Evolution. Vol 5, No. 1, 1988, pp. 63-78, doi: 10.1093 / oxfordjournals.molbev.a040476
  14. Pradeep Adhikari et al. : First molecular evidence of Mus musculus bactrianus in Nepal inferred from the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome B gene sequences. In: Mitochondrial DNA Part A. Online publication May 19, 2017. doi: 10.1080 / 24701394.2017.1320994
  15. Hitoshi Suzuki et al. : Tracing the eastward dispersal of the house mouse, Mus musculus. In: Genes and Environment. Volume 37, No. 20, 2015, online publication, doi: 10.1186 / s41021-015-0013-9
  16. K. Zimmermann: The house mouse from Helgoland Mus musculus helgolandicus sspec. nov .. In: Zeitschrift für Mammaliankunde. Volume 17, 1949, pp. 163-166.