A study of the muscles of the manus of 13 genera and subgenera of microtine rodents revealed considerable variation which could be organized into 23 primitive-derived evolutionary hypotheses (transmutation series). The results, when compared with those for other mammals, produced functional/ecological hypotheses which were tested by comparing their predictions with the literature. The microtine manus is morphologically distinguished by nine characters and is adapted for a terrestrial/semi-fossorial niche. In particular, Dicrostonyx and Lemmus (distinguished by eight characters) possess the most highly fossorial manus, while the manus of Arborimus (distinguished by eight characters) contains a combination of primitive characters and derived characters which give the Tree vole the most highly developed ‘clasping’ ability among the microtines studied. The study has revealed characters which have potential systematic value but it is probable that parallelism has occurred in the microtine manus. When the manual characters are combined with characters from other functional complexes, their systematic value can be more clearly determined.