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Influence of physical environmental characteristics and anthropogenic factors on the position and structure of a contact zone between two chromosomal races of the house mouse on the island of Madeira (North Atlantic, Portugal)

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Abstract Aim 

This study aimed to investigate if and how environmental characteristics (physical factors of the natural environment and the human impact on the landscape) influence the position and structure of a contact zone between two chromosomal races of the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus Rutty 1712) from the island of Madeira. Location 

The western part of Madeira, a volcanic island in the North Atlantic. Methods 

Mice were sampled along a south/north-western transect following the main road, in human-modified outdoor habitats. Karyotypes of mice were determined using the yeast-stimulated bone marrow cell method. Trapping sites were characterized in terms of their physical (altitude, temperature, precipitation and soil type) and habitat (human landscape use and occupancy) features. Demographic parameters of mouse populations, based on trapping-with-removal techniques, were also analysed (relative abundance, sex-ratio, juvenile ratio and female fertility ratio), as well as body size (weight and length). Results 

Four chromosomal zones were identified on the basis of the frequency of two diagnostic rearrangements (Rb(6.7) in race E. Calheta and Rb(7.15) in race A. Cruz). E. Calheta was present in the two southern-most zones, followed by the contact zone characterized by the presence of two inter-racial hybrids and the co-occurrence of mice belonging to the two races. The northern-most part of the transect was occupied by A. Cruz. Environmental features differed leading us to split the transect into two parts. The southern part is characterized by lower altitude and precipitation, milder temperature, better soil quality supporting vegetable crops and vineyards, and more abundant and evenly distributed human habitats. This southern part is occupied by E. Calheta mice. The north-western part presents characteristics opposite to those described above with cereals as the main cultivated crop, and it includes the contact zone as well as the zone inhabited by A. Cruz mice. The demographic parameters evaluated in this study did not differ significantly between chromosomal zones. Main conclusions 

This ecological survey highlights differences in climatic and edaphic features that have moulded the agricultural activities of humans, contributing to a differentiation of their spatial development, and hence the structure of potential habitats for mice. Results are interpreted within the source–sink framework of population dynamics, following which E. Calheta may function as a source and the areas where A. Cruz and the contact zone are located may function as a sink . Our study suggests that the position and chromosomal composition of the contact zone is influenced by the human component underlying broader environmental features. Similar characteristics were most likely present during the historical settlement of Madeira. They may have favoured the independent divergence of the two races and influenced the dynamics of the contact zone.
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Keywords: Anthropization; Madeira island; Mus musculus domesticus; chromosomal evolution; contact zone; demography; ecological characteristics; habitats; house mouse

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire Génétique et Environnement, Institut des Sciences de l’ Evolution, UMR 5554 CNRS, CC 065, Université de Montpellier II, Montpellier Cedex, France 2: Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Museu Bocage, Universidade de Lisboa, Rua da Escola Politécnica, Lisboa, Portugal 3: Departamento de Biologia, Centro de Estudos da Macaronésia, Universidade da Madeira, Penteada, Funchal, Portugal 4: Departamento de Biologia Animal, Faculdade de Ciências, Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal

Publication date: 2005-12-01

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