New research has revealed that when the Vikings sailed across the North Atlantic to places like Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, they brought with them the common house mouse. An international team of researchers from the UK, USA, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden examined the mitochondrial DNA of these mice to see where their origins were from. Their article, “Fellow travellers: a concordance of colonization patterns between mice and men in the North Atlantic region” was published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.
During the Viking age (late 8th to mid 10th century) Vikings from Norway established colonies across Scotland, the Scottish islands, Ireland, and Isle of Man. They also explored the north Atlantic, settling in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Newfoundland and Greenland. While the Norse settlers took with them domestic animals such as horses, sheep, goats and chickens they also inadvertently carried pests like mice.
The researchers used techniques designed to characterize genetic similarity, and hence the relatedness of one population, or one individual, with another, to determine a mouse colonisation timeline.
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