Sub-antarctic House mice: colonization, survival and selection



House mice have colonized and survived successfully on a number of Sub-Antarctic islands, where the mean annual temperature is only about 5°C, but where there is little seasonal fluctuation in climate. Surprisingly this allows almost continuous breeding. On at least two islands (Macquarie and Marion), there are significant changes in gene frequency in electro-phoretically detected enzymes between young (less than three months of age) and old animals from the same population. This indicates natural selection acting in opposite directions at different stages of the life cycle. However the genetical compositions of the Macquarie and Marion populations are more distinct from each other than either is from most British samples. This means that detailed studies of the Sub-Antarctic mouse populations are likely to reveal much about local adaptation, while comparison between the responses of different populations may lead to important generalisations about the possible reaction to evolutionary challenges of a species living close to its physiological limit.