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Peromyscus is a genus of rodents whose members are commonly referred to as deer mice. They are New World mice only distantly related to the common house and laboratory mouse, Mus musculus. From this relative, Peromyscus species are distinguished by relatively larger eyes, and also often two-tone coloring, with darker colors over the dorsum (back), and white abdominal and limb hair-coloring. In reference to the coloring, the word Peromyscus comes from Greek words meaning "booted mouse".[1] They are also accomplished jumpers and runners by comparison to house mice, and their common name of "deer mouse" (coined in 1833) is in reference to this agility.[2]

Peromyscus (Deer mouse)
Temporal range: Late Miocene – Recent
Peromyscus maniculatus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Subfamily: Neotominae
Tribe: Reithrodontomyini
Genus: Peromyscus
Gloger, 1841

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The most common species of deer mice in the continental United States are two closely related species, P. maniculatus, and P. leucopus. In the United States, Peromyscus is the most populous mammalian genus overall, and has become notorious in the western United States as a carrier of hantaviruses.[3][4]

Reservoir of human diseaseEdit


The deer mouse came to the attention of the public when it was discovered to be the primary reservoir species for Sin Nombre hantavirus.[3][5][6]

Lyme diseaseEdit

A recent study in British Columbia of 218 deer mice showed 30% (66) were seropositive for Borrelia burgdorferi,[7] the agent of Lyme disease.

Other diseasesEdit

Ehrlichiosis and babesiosis are also carried by the deer mouse.[1]

Use as a laboratory animalEdit

While wild populations are sometimes studied,[8] Peromyscus species are also easy to breed and keep in captivity, although they are more energetic and difficult to handle than the relatively more tame M. musculus. For certain studies, They are also favored over the common laboratory mouse (M. musculus) and the laboratory rat (Rattus norvegicus). Apart from their importance in studying infectious diseases, Peromyscus species are useful for studying phylogeography, speciation, chromosomes, genetics, ecology, population genetics, and evolution in general. They are also useful for researching repetitive-movement disorders.[9][10][11][12] Their use in aging research is because Peromyscus spp., despite being of similar size to the standard laboratory mouse, have maximum lifespans of 5-7 years, compared to the 3-year maximum lifespan of ad libitum-fed laboratory strains or wild-caught M. musculus.[1]

The Peromyscus Genetic Stock Center at the University of South Carolina was established by Professor Wallace Dawson in 1985 to raise animals of the peromyscine species for research and educational use. This institute maintains populations of several different species (including Peromyscus californicus, Peromyscus maniculatus, Peromyscus melanophrys, Peromyscus eremicus, and Peromyscus aztecus). A variety of mutations affecting their behavior, biochemistry, and the color of their coats is exhibited in these genetic lines.



  1. ^ a b c Crossland, J. and Lewandowski, A. (2006). Peromyscus – A fascinating laboratory animal model Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine. Techtalk 11:1–2.
  2. ^ Deer mouse etymology from Merriam-Webster. Accessed June 11, 2010. (2012-08-31). Retrieved on 2014-01-05.
  3. ^ a b CDC – Hantavirus. (2012-11-01). Retrieved on 2014-01-05.
  4. ^ What if .... University of South Carolina
  5. ^ "It's Official—The Deer Mouse Is Deadly". Newsmagazine. 21 (31): 43. 18 July 1994.
  6. ^ Netski, D; Thran, BH; St. Jeor, SC (1999). "Sin Nombre virus pathogenesis in Peromyscus maniculatus". Journal of Virology. 73 (1): 585–91. PMC 103864. PMID 9847363.
  7. ^ Canada Communicable Disease Report (CCDR) – Vol.34 CCDR-01 – Public Health Agency of Canada. (2008-01-30). Retrieved on 2014-01-05.
  8. ^ Tietje, William D.; Lee, Derek E.; Vreeland, Justin K. (2008). "Survival and Abundance Of Three Species Of Mice In Relation to Density Of Shrubs and Prescribed Fire In Understory Of An Oak Woodland In California". The Southwestern Naturalist. 53 (3): 357–369. doi:10.1894/PS-35.1. ISSN 0038-4909.
  9. ^ Joyner CP, Myrick LC, Crossland JP, Dawson WD (1998). "Deer Mice As Laboratory Animals". ILAR journal / National Research Council, Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources. 39 (4): 322–330. doi:10.1093/ilar.39.4.322. PMID 11406688.
  10. ^ Dewey, M.J. & Dawson, W.D. (2001). "Deer mice: "The Drosophila of North American mammalogy"". Genesis. 29 (3): 105–9. doi:10.1002/gene.1011. PMID 11252049.
  11. ^ Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources (U.S.). Committee on Animal Models for Research on Aging; National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Animal Models for Research on Aging (1981). Mammalian Models for Research on Aging. National Academies. ISBN 978-0-309-03094-6.
  12. ^ Linnen, CR; Kingsley, EP; Jensen, JD; Hoekstra, HE (2009). "On the origin and spread of an adaptive allele in deer mice". Science. 325 (5944): 1095–8. doi:10.1126/science.1175826. PMC 2736094. PMID 19713521.
  13. ^ Lorenzo, C. et al. (January 2016). "Revision of the Chiapan deer mouse, Peromyscus zarhynchus, with the description of a new species". Journal of Mammalogy. 97 (3): 910–918. doi:10.1093/jmammal/gyw018.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

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