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Monday, 19 March 2012

Viking invasions throughout the North Atlantic world 1,000 years ago brought mice everywhere, except for Canada -

Viking invasions throughout the North Atlantic world 1,000 years ago brought mice everywhere, except for Canada - 

An international team of scientists has determined that the Viking invasions throughout the North Atlantic world more than 1,000 years ago were accompanied in almost every case by the introduction of common house mice to the newly established Norse colonies - with the lone exception of Canada.

The new research is described as further proof of the inhospitable conditions encountered by Viking seafarers led by Leif Ericsson when they landed at L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland. The harsh Canadian climate and the Vikings' violent clashes with the island's ``skraelings'' - members of an unidentified aboriginal nation - are believed to have forced the would-be conquerors of North America (and apparently their mouse companions, too) to abandon Newfoundland after a short time and to return to safer settlements in Greenland and Iceland.

The study, led by evolutionary biologist Eleanor Jones of Sweden's Uppsala University and Britain's University of York, traces the associated movements of Norse colonists and the European domestic mice that apparently stowed away in the travellers' sailing vessels en route to new lands to the west of ancient Scandinavia.

The research team, which also included experts from Iceland, Denmark and the U.S., examined evidence of ancient mice DNA from Viking archeological sites as well as the genetic features of mice living today in areas once inhabited by Norse settlement parties.

In findings published in the latest issue of the scholarly journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, the researchers explain how they discovered proof that bloodlines from the mouse species Mus musculus domesticus - already known to have been carried by Viking voyagers to medieval Scotland and Ireland - also found their way to Iceland and Greenland, presumably in mice hidden among the livestock carried to those colonies aboard ships from old Norway.

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